BIE grant could jump start Little Singer school renovation

LEUPP, Ariz. - A grant from the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) could help the Little Singer Community School project in Birdsprings, Ariz. get off the ground.

On Feb. 3, the Health, Education, and Human Services Committee (HEHSC) received a report on the proposed planning and design phase of a new building that will house the Little Singer Community School, which would replace the existing school.

Council Delegate Walter Phelps (Cameron, Coalmine Canyon, Leupp, Tolani Lake, Tsidi Tó'ii), who represents the community of Birdsprings, said he has advocated for the construction of the new school and expressed his concerns regarding the money to pay for the project.

"Our community wants to help because that is our role, to support the education of the children in our community," said Phelps. "Currently, we are projecting that the construction project itself will cost about $18 million."

According to project manager Jeremiah LeMesa, construction is nearing the "shovel ready" stage. The grant from the BIE for the design phase is awarded on a priority basis.

"The BIE has allocated $950,000 to aid in the design [phase] of three tribal schools-two here on the Navajo reservation [Birdsprings and Cove, Ariz., and one in [the state of] Maine," said LaMesa. "We have completed the planning phase of the school and we are ready to begin the design phase."

The BIE established a priority list for the three schools based on the project-readiness of each respective school. BIE will award money to the schools after they have fully obtained funding for construction.

LaMesa also noted that money from the BIE grant would be divided equally between the three schools. However, the community has advocated for Little Singer Community School to receive two-thirds, or approximately $600,000, of the potential money. Currently, the planning phase for the proposed school in the community of Cove is not complete.

HEHSC chair Council Delegate Jonathan Hale (Oak Springs, St. Michaels) said he supported the proposed construction and suggested that the committee begin lobbying efforts for the approval of the BIE grant money in Washington, D.C. in March.

"We will be meeting with Congressional leaders soon, so we need to go through the necessary channels to begin lobbying for the BIE funds, as well as to amend the priority listing to put Little Singer at the top of the list," Hale said..

At the conclusion of the discussion, HEHSC members agreed to a deadline to collect the necessary information needed to begin lobbying for BIE funds for the design phase of the school, and to amend the BIE priority listing. The deadline is set for Feb. 24.

HEHSC members voted 4-0 to accept the report.

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