School for the Deaf renovations
Half of the old orchard at the New Mexico School for the Deaf was removed as part of ongoing campus renovations that have efficiency as one driving force. The northern part of the orchard was sacrificed in the name of access safety; in its place is additional parking and a bus turnaround for the school and the James A. LittleTheater. The remaining orchard is still an important part of the school, said NMSD planning and projects manager Harold Moya during a late-May walkthrough with security manager Jerry Ortiz. “This was once a self-sustaining campus. We had our own cows, a dairy, and the orchard. We’ve reduced it by about 50 percent so we can take care of it better. We cut some of the older trees out and we put in an irrigation system. We do still have harvest days and the kids pick apples and press cider.”
Three of the campus’ old buildings also were demolished in the recent work: the Sosaya (higher education) Building, the Laundry Building, and the Health Care Building. “We’re trying to decrease square footage and make everything more efficient. We are consolidating and making more practical spaces.”
Why? Is the student population down? “No,” Moya responded. “We are now working with the Public Schools Facilities Authority [PSFA] and they asked us for a five-year plan and to document all our facilities. What we found is that we’re wasting a lot of energy and space. This is like going from a full-size car to a mid-size car.”
The campus is organized with vehicular traffic around the perimeter, while the interior is pedestrian-oriented. New walkways are being built with the deaf students in mind. “In the city, a 6-foot sidewalk is considered ADA-compliant but on this campus, 8 to 10 feet makes more sense because three people walking and using their hands to talk and see each other signing requires more space,” Moya said.
The school is expanding its security facilities with guard houses similar to the one guarding entry to Santa Fe Indian School a mile southwest. There will be more than 60 cameras on the site, and more at theNMSD preschool in Albuquerque, all of which can be monitored at this main campus on Cerrillos Road.
A grand pedestrian corridor is being developed through the center of the campus, just behind the main buildings facing on Cerrillos. One of its features is an entry arch that has been preserved from the old Health Care Building. That was done in honor of the alumni who have fond memories of spending time there as students and were sad that it was being razed.
The Acequia Trail that connects the Guadalupe and Baca sections of the Santa Fe Railyard runs along the northern border of the New Mexico School for the Deaf, behind a fence. It will be much busier in the near future when the St. Francis Drive underpass is built. “We made a trade with the city,” Moya said. “We gave them property along the trail and the city will replace the fence, including a concrete apron at the bottomso nobody can go under it, and they will provide enforcement and put in new lighting. This will be the first lit trail in the city.”
Another change coming in the northern section of the campus is the installation of two 33-foot educational aquaponic domes from the Colorado company Growing Spaces. Moya said students will be able to keep fish and use the waste to fertilize plants.
NMSD provides educational and support services to deaf and hard-of-hearing children, from birth to age 22, from throughout the state. The roots of the school go back to 1885, when deaf pioneer Lars Larson and his wife, Belle, began teaching deaf students in a small adobe house at the corner of Dunlap and Irvine streets. Two years later, the New Mexico School for the Deaf was officially established by the State Legislature.
The Larsons’ original house/school building that was constructed in 1891 on the campus grounds was torn down
in 1916, according to A Century of Progress: History of the New Mexico School for the Deaf. It was replaced that year by Cartwright Hall, designed by Isaac Rapp— the architect whose firm was responsible for many esteemed buildings in Santa Fe, among them the FirstWard School (1905), Marian Hall (1908), Gross KellyWarehouse (1913), New Mexico Museum of Art (1917), and the original part of La Fonda (1920). Another early structure on the NMSD campus was a 1905 red-brick school building that was designed by Rapp and built by AntonioWindsor; it was razed in 1937.
The campus improvement program began in 2009-11 with the reworking of the 1928 ConnorHall, formerly a dormitory, for the school’s technology, counseling, and transition departments— the latter focusing on students who are transitioning from school to the greater community and the work world— as well as art and woodshop classrooms. The interior walls were completely removed in order to reconfigure the space for new functions, including a better classroom orientation than the original rows of desks.
Speaking with the Real Estate Guide in late 2009, NMSD superintendent Ronald J. Stern said the renovated facilities on the campus are “deafcentric, and what that means is that there are unobstructed vision lines and there’s a lot of natural light. Deaf people are people of the eye.” In the new classrooms, desks can be arranged in a horseshoe or circular shape, so students and teachers can see one another.
Next up, in 2011-12, was the renovation of Dillon Hall Designed by Gordon Street and built in 1936, Dillon is the school’s primary high school/middle school building. In 2013-14, a new, contemporary-style library and museum was built behind Dillon Hall. As on all of the construction projects in the current improvement program, it was done by Dekker/Perich/Sabatini Architects and contractor Bradbury Stamm.
“Last year we did Site Phase 1, which was the newfence and landscaping along Cerrillos Road,” Moya said. “The current work is Site Phase 2. Of the $9million for this phase, we’ve spent about $6 million on infrastructure: two miles of new water, sewer, storm drains, electrical, and fiber optics. Instead of being a hundred years behind, as the oldest school in the state, we’re going to be cutting-edge.
“We’re taking down a little over an acre, about 40,000 square feet of old buildings. We went through the historic preservation process and we’re actually recycling some beams and corbels for other projects, including for the inside of Delgado Hall.”
Renovations at Delgado (built as the campus bakery in 1931) are coming up. Moya said the current work will be finished by the time school starts this fall. Then, in mid2017, crews will start on Delgado Hall and neighboring Cartwright Hall, beginning with asbestos abatement. “We’ll gut the insides, but because they’re historic, we’ll maintain the exterior. But we’ll do new stucco, newroofs, newwindows and doors, and also new security and ADA access.”
Delgado holds the administration and student services offices, while Cartwright houses the school’s family housing and the outreach program. The move to reduce unneeded space will also manifest here, as rear wings added to both buildings in the 1970s will be removed.
Future phases in the updating plan will address the dining hall in 2018, the gym in 2019, the theater in 2020, and finally renovations of the dormitories.
In late May, workers build a circular outdoor classroom at the New Mexico School for the Deaf. Below, a rendering shows the new, central walkway— at the left side is the entry arch preserved from the Health Care Building. Opposite, a rendering of the central campus and a photo of the entry roundabout under construction