Navajo-Hopi Nations,Flagstaff & Winslow News
Sat, Sept. 26

Second Mesa Day School <br>construction funds in jeopardy

KYKOTSMOVI—If no land site for the Second Mesa Elementary School is designated soon, the Second Mesa Communities will lose construction funding for the new school.

“This is a unique and urgent situation,” said Hopi Chairman Wayne Taylor who was notified of the deadline by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. “My office and the Second Mesa Day School (SMDS) School Board, after lobbying aggressively for school construction dollars, have $19.56 million dedicated for the new construction but we have no secure land site. Most communities have a land site identified but no construction dollars.”

In October 2000, SMDS received its long awaited funding for new construction from Congress. However, the inability to designate an acceptable site for the school over a ten-year period may jeopardize the obligation of the funds within the recent timelines imposed by the BIA.

The BIA declared SMDS unsafe and subsequently condemned it in 1990 when the school developed cracks in its wall large enough to stick a hand through. The school was demolished and the students have remained temporarily “unhoused.”. While a new land site was begin sought, the BIA brought in modular units to serve as classrooms for the SMDS students. A replacement facility for SMDS became a lobby priority for the SMDS Board and the Hopi Tribe in the ensuing years.

On October 16, 2000, Chairman Taylor met with Assistant Secretary of the BIA, Ken Gover, to discuss the SMDS situation. According to Assistant Secretary Gover and officials of the BIA Facilities Management Construction Center (FMCC), the apparent lack of progress over the last ten years in securing a land site is of grave concern. It is imperative that now that the BIA has secured the funding from Congress, the Agency obligate the funds to demonstrate that there is a definite need for new school construction nation-wide.

“Their message was simple and straightforward. Secure a land site immediately or lose the SMDS construction funding,” said Chairman Taylor. “Unless a school site is secured, our construction funding for SMDS will go to another school on the BIA New School Construction Priority List.”

Shortly after this meeting, Chairman Taylor received an official letter from the head of the FMCC, setting the deadline date of November 30. An extension for an additional month was requested and granted.

To address this matter, Chairman Taylor called two meeting to assist in addressing the land site issues but with mixed results. Since 1990, the SMDS Board identified four possible sites within District 6, but all four sites have received differing religious and cultural objections. Land assignments within District 6 require village approvals and a new site for SMDS will rely on the consensus of the Second Mesa villages. The proposed sites include: the original SMDS site, the Highway 87 site, the Sunlight Mission site and the Hopi Cultural Center site. If the FMCC imposed deadline is not met the funding will likely go to another school off the Hopi Reservation.

“I am hoping that the Second Mesa Villages will designate an undisputed land site for the new school really soon. However, in the event SMDS is unable to secure a land site by the federal deadline, I requested that the FMCC consider transferring the funding to Polacca Day School, as they have already secured a landsite which is number 7 on the priority list. We should not lose construction funding meant for Hopi. Second Mesa Day School will still retain its priority ranking and remain eligible for another round of funding next fiscal year. However, due to the urgent need of the Second Mesa students, I am hopeful that a land site will be determined by the village leadership in time to meet the deadline,” Taylor concluded.

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