Clovis Christian seventh-graders exit Sherill Wofford’s class on the left and Max Kralicek’s on the right after class Wednesday at school. Increased enrollment has allowed the school to have two seventh-grade classes. (CNJ staff photo: Eric Kluth)
By Ryan Lengerich: CNJ staff writer
The hallways at Clovis Christian School are narrow. Lockers don’t face each other, they are staggered to maximize space. When the bell rings, students cram the isle, turning shoulders to squeeze through the halls of the Hinkle Street building on the city’s west side.
Some classrooms are long and narrow, others are short and wide.
But school Superintendent Steve Medeiros said tight hall space and quirky classrooms are minor issues. The real challenge is capacity at the school where enrollment has more than doubled since its opening in 1994.
Just 1 1/2 years since Medeiros decided a new building was necessary, the school has purchased a 40-acre lot east of town with plans for an 80,000-square-foot, $4 million facility for grades K-12.
“We’re quickly and in some cases have reached what we would consider ideal occupancy levels as far as classrooms,” he said. “We are continuing to grow and since we continue to grow it creates more and more of a burden on this old building.”
CCS has surged from 110 students in 1994 to 245 this spring. Medeiros said he expects upward enrollment trends to continue. In 2004 the school received state accreditation from the New Mexico Public Education Department.
“In some people’s mind that would give us greater legitimacy,” said Medeiros, who has been top boss at the school since 1995. “We offer an excellent education.”
But the building — while structurally sound — can’t handle the school’s growth, he said.
In 1994, the school purchased the current 60,000-square-foot structure for $10 from Central Baptist Church. Much of the building served as the Santa Fe Railroad Hospital built in 1914. The church added the south end in the 1940s.
Medeiros said the building was vacated a few years prior to the school’s purchase. During those years, the third floor was heavily damaged by a series of fires.
Inside, the maze-like building has old-style marble floors at the entrance. Long stairways greet multiple hallways and intricate corners. Medeiros said his office may have been a hospital ward. Secondary students study in a former nurses’ call station and the art room in the basement was a morgue.
The basement was the only federally approved bomb shelter in the city during World War II, he said.
In the summer, Secondary Principal Ceil Boatman hit a crossroad when the seventh-grade enrollment exploded to 30. Ideally, she said, there are 17 students per teacher, though they have went as high as 24.
For the first time a large class forced the school to split the class, meaning another classroom and the need for part-time teachers.
“We had talked about getting portable classrooms,” Boatman said. “We’ll find a place for them, whatever we have to do.”
As Medeiros saw more children and little room to grow he formed a committee of parents to evaluate property. He said the school raised $80,000 in one meeting and he found a private donor to lend the remaining money needed to buy 90 acres at 21st and Humphrey streets near the airport.
School officials sold 50 acres for about double the money just four months later.
With the land in place, officials hired a Denver-based consulting firm to assess how CCS officials should proceed in raising needed funds.
As a non-profit private institution, CCS receives little state funding.
“They send me a little money for math books,” he said.
Medeiros said the school will not raise tuition set at $2,900 per year for secondary students to fund the project. He is banking on generosity from parents and community supporters.
Medeiros said current plans are to build the kindergarten and elementary facilities first. The high school will remain in the current building until more funding is secured. He is planning a facility to hold about 400 students with room to expand. The structure will include a new gymnasium.
While Medeiros is hopeful to break ground sometime this calendar year, CCS board member David Petty is optimistic work can begin within two years.
“We are going to plan based on what is committed,” Petty said. “We will listen to those doing the teaching and see what it is they want.”
One of those teachers is Linda Bolyard, a secondary science teacher who has been with the school since the doors opened. She remembers when the building’s third floor was unusable. She now teaches in a long, L-shaped lab on the top floor that she said is sufficient but getting more crowded.
“What we thought was big and spacious,” she said, “isn’t nearly enough room anymore.”