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LCPS board perplexed on how to fix mold issue at “money pit” elementary school

School board members are perplexed at how to fix the never-ending structural problems and mold infestation at Columbia Elementary School in Las Cruces.

“It ain’t nothing new,” said Andy Pantoja, who has a grandchild at Columbia Elementary School. “Before the school even opened, it was flooded.”

The $8.5 million school was built in 2003. ABC-7 has reported extensively on the structural problems and the large crack in the foundation.

In 15 years, the school has gone through $263,000 worth of renovations to fix multiple problems, said Ray Jaramillo, the board member who represents district one.

“I couldn’t go back to my community and the people that elected me to be here and fail,” Jaramillo told the public. “Failure is not an option.”

Columbia Elementary students will attend Centennial High School for up to a year while district officials scramble for a solution.

“The playground that they have is small, there’s no swings,” Pantoja told board members. “There are still interactions going on between high school students and the elementary kids, which is to me, unacceptable.”

According to the district, demolishing the building could cause between $500,000 and $1 million. With current construction costs, building a new school could cost close to $25 million. If the district decides to build a new school, board members must decide whether they’d like to choose a new location.

“Basically, it’s a money pit,” said Terrie Dallman, the board member for district two. “We just want to get it right.”

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