To’Hajiilee Community School
To’Hajiilee Community School

Navajo school in New Mexico gets $90 million for new campus

Feb. 27, 2023
The money will enable the To’Hajiilee Community School to replace its flood-plagued existing facility.

A $90.4 million Congressional appropriation will enable a New Mexico school run by the Navajo Nation to build a new campus safe from the flooding that plagues the existing school.

Source NM reports that severe weather often forces students at the existing To’Hajiilee Community School to evacuate because the building is in such disrepair that it’s dangerous for people to be inside.

U.S. Representative Melanie Stansbury helped secure the funding for a new school in an omnibus spending bill approved last December.

“For me, the story and history and just the beauty and resilience of this community in the school is what has driven me every day,” Stansbury said in a visit to the school.

The To’Hajiilee Community School, about 30 miles west of Albuquerque, was built in 1935 and run by the Bureau of Indian Education as a boarding school for kindergartners to third graders. The housing units were shut down in 1975, and the campus was reopened as a K-12 day school.

The To’Hajiilee Chapter now administers the school functions and budget with some collaboration between the federal government and the Navajo Nation Tribal Education Department. It serves more than 300 Navajo students.

The school has had to cope with prolonged safety concerns because it was built in a flood plain, and every rain led to a risk of flooding and further deterioration to the building.

Paulene Abeyta, vice president of the To’hajiilee Community School Board, says students arriving by bus “cross a small little bridge that continually gets washed out,” and the first thing they regularly see when they get to campus are 3-foot-tall sandbags designed to help with flood prevention.

She said the investment in a new school will elevate student and community expectations.

“I think when you have safe, clean, beautiful structures with top-of-the-line equipment to foster education and growth, your students really do see how they’re valued,” Abeyta said.

The school board is working to collect community input, find possible land plots and ensure that the construction funds are released on time through the Bureau of Indian Affairs. 

About the Author

Mike Kennedy | Senior Editor

Mike Kennedy has been writing about education for American School & University since 1999. He also has reported on schools and other topics for The Chicago Tribune, The Kansas City Star, The Kansas City Times and City News Bureau of Chicago. He is a graduate of Michigan State University.

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