Navajo-Hopi Nations,Flagstaff & Winslow News
Thu, Sept. 24

Aging Tuba City Boarding School at top of list for new construction, renovation

Tuba City Boarding School is one step closer to its long-anticipated renovation.

Members of the eleven-member TCBS Self Management Team met Monday, April 3 to review the $38.6 million project. To date, they have agreed on 95% of the plan, and are expected to give final approval by May 1, said Bill Taylor of the DLR Group of Architects, the contracting firm for the project.

According to TCBS Principal Jerry Diebel, these recent meetings are just part of a process that began 10 years ago, when TCBS applied for more classroom space and a new gymnasium.

“After we applied,” said Diebel, “the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) sent out team from Washington and other areas to validate those applications. They looked at the buildings and decided we needed a whole new school.” TCBS was placed 13th on a list of schools scheduled for construction. Now, said Diebel, they are number one or two.

The BIA’s recommendation is no mystery—many of TCBS’ buildings were constructed in the early 1900s and 1930s. While they are striking, these beautiful sandstone buildings have witnessed years of wind and rain and are deteriorating. Some have fallen into disuse.

According to the POR, these building must be either “renovat[ed] and/or replace[d] to accommodate the present enrollment...and to meet Navajo, BIA, Arizona and North Central Association Accreditation Standards.”

Since nine of the buildings are eligible for the National Register for Historic Sites, complete demolition has not been an option.

“TCBS is looking to preserve six of these buildings,” said Taylor, “which will be refurbished under historic preservation guidelines.”

Of the total project budget, $997,436 is allotted for renovation. Although this amount is more than what it would cost to demolish the buildings, their historic value must also be added into the equation.

Buildings 3, 5, and 6, however, may be demolished if the BIA and the Navajo Nation Historic Preservation Department approve it.

According to the DLR report, the buildings pose numerous safety and health hazards. The moisture from the dung of roosting pigeons is causing the ceilings to collapse, plaster falling from the shower rooms has exposed rotten wood lath and has plugged drains, and broken windows and overall unsanitary conditions will make these buildings difficult to renovate.

“In the condition they are in today and amount it will take to refurbish and find functions to go in there, they will take too much money,” said Taylor.

And although the buildings have been fenced off, that hasn’t prevented people from getting in.

“People have been starting fires in there,” said Lillie Holgate, TCBS Board President, “The fences don’t keep the kids out.”

According to DLR, a Memorandum of Agreement was “signed in 1984, stating that buildings TC-3, TC-5 and TC-6 could be demolished...,” but, “the terms of the agreement were not upheld and thus the agreement needs to renegotiated.”

Taylor said that although Dwayne Waseta, with the Cultural Resource Compliance Section of the Historic Preservation Department, indicated verbally that demolition will not be a problem, the team still needs the documentation in order to proceed as planned.

Some members of the team, however, questioned the decision to only demolish three of the buildings. Holgate indicated that she would like to see all of the buildings demolished, citing problems campus-wide with asbestos. “Placing a new building in the middle of all the old ones will not alleviate the hazard,” she said. “I am thinking of the kids, and of all the children who are coming.”

But Taylor pointed out that “those buildings won’t be like they are today. They will be brought to code structurally, and we’ll get more square footage by using the existing buildings.”

In addition, he said, “Not saving anything would be a much more difficult task. The Boarding School would never see a new building.”

TCBS will get approximately 175,000 square feet with the new construction, the maximum amount allowed by the BIA. With the increase in space, the school will be able to offer new programs to students, like band and shop, said Diebel. And it will be able to offer them to more students—with the new construction, TCBS will be able to serve 1400.

But Tuba City is growing, and Diebel expects that by 2008, the school will have 1600 students enrolled.

“They [the BIA] were a little timid about asking Congress for more than what they asked,” he said. Currently, TCBS is one of the largest K-8 schools the BIA operates, said Diebel, and once construction is completed, it will take the top spot. The BIA was afraid that if they asked for more, Congress might see fit to build another BIA school in another location, or even another public school in the area, rather than providing the money for TCBS.

As a consequence, the construction project does not contain plans for new dormitories. Although two of the current dorms will be renovated, it is likely that the school will require more space as enrollment grows. “We have been asked to apply for new residential construction later,” said Diebel.

Once the Team has submitted their proposal, the BIA must put also approve it. The Team hopes that construction will begin in 2001.

“We’ve had too many years of soft stone,” said Holgate. “It’s blown away. Now we need something nice for our grandkids, and our relatives.”

TCBS Self Management Team members are: Lillie Holgate, TCBS School Board President; Sally K. Preston, TCBS School Board Vice-President; Lewis Hascon, Jr., TCBS Board Member; Bob Montoya, Architect, BIA-COTR, Contracting Officer’s Representative; Beverly Moran, BIA-COTR, Self Determination Specialist; Larry Duncan, The Navajo Nation, Design and Engineering Services; Stenson Wauneka, Jr.; Nelson Johns, The Navajo Nation, Design and Engineering Services; Andrew Tah, OIEP, Western Navajo Agency; James McCabe, NAO Facilities Management; Jerry Diebel, TCBS Principal; and Bill Taylor, DLR Group.

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