CONCHAS LAKE – At its height it educated 25 students grades kindergarten through sixth grade, but those days are long gone, and because of that, Conchas Elementary School held its last class in May.
The school was established over fifty years ago and had as its mission statement to educate the people around Conchas Lake especially those governmental employees who lived and worked at the lake. “But when the Corps (of Engineers) employees started moving to town (Tucumcari) because of no longer having housing out here there were less and less students at the school,” said Joe Martinez a Corps of Engineers employee who still lives at Conchas Lake.
All of Martinez children were educated at the small one-room school house and he felt they got a very good education. “They got a great education,” said Martinez. “Sue Harp did a great job of educating them. Studies show that small schools do a better job than big ones when it comes to getting an education. And this school proved that.”
To illustrate his point, he pointed to his own children who have won have consistently won area and regional spelling bees in both Las Vegas and Tucumcari. The Superintendent of the West Las Vegas School District, Joe Baca, said that the low number of students at the Conchas School was the deciding factor regarding the closing of the school. The West Las Vegas School District is the district that oversees Conchas. “We just couldn’t keep the school open for five students,” said Baca. “I agree it’s sad, but it was something we had to do. We have made an agreement with Quay County to take the students.”
William Reents, superintendent of Tucumcari Schools said he too was saddened by the closing of the small school in Conchas, but added that Tucumcari teachers, administrators and students would try to make them feel at home. “We are happy to take them,” said Reents. “I’m sure we will try to make them feel welcome here.” Reents said he is uncertain as to transportation plans at this point but he said he was sure that something would be in place soon for getting the elementary age students the 38 miles to and from Tucumcari from Conchas Lake.
Martinez said even though his children have moved beyond the school, he is still sad about the closing because the school was more than a place just for educating students.
“It was a gathering place,” said Martinez.
He pointed to how the entire community would turn out to watch Thanksgiving and Christmas Programs, plays and presentations. “It meant a lot to the people here,” said Martinez.