Charter School Calls Oñate Center Home for Now

 Rio Arriba County (RAC) has finally awarded the lease for the Oñate Monument Resource and Visitors Center in Alcalde to La Tierra Montessori School of Arts and Sciences. The school, which will host kindergarten through sixth grade, will call the Center home for a year, starting September 4th,  as a temporary location until it can find a more permanent site.

“Looking for a place to locate the school was a challenge,” said school Co-Founder Roger Montoya. “We looked at 45 properties and the Oñate Center was a great location to serve as a bridge while we search for a more permanent place.” According to RAC Grants and Contracts Administrator, Phillip Morfin, the lease term began on July 1, 2012 and will end June 30, 2013. Morfin stated that the lease asks for a monthly rental fee of $6000.

Morfin said that the Center’s request for proposal (RFP) was created after RAC shut down the building because of a lack of use. “The reason the RFP was developed, is because we had to assure that the Center would be preserved through use and also to stimulate economic growth,” said Morfin. “We could not allow it to be stagnant, especially after so much hard work was put into building it.” According to Morfin and Montoya, the vision for the school is to fall in line with the original mission of the Center, which is to promote and to contribute to local culture.

Montoya, who has a professional background in the arts, co-founded the charter school with Prairie Boulmier-Darden, who has a strong background in the Montessori method, which is an educational approach that originated in Italy and is based on teaching according to the individual child’s psychological development. This is an alternative approach to the traditional generalized education offered in public schools. La Tierra students will be taught in accordance with the Montessori approach. Montoya stated that school faculty will be state certified and each instructor will have an assistant, both of which will work together to integrate basic subject matter, with hands-on practices, that include seasonal farming, poetry, culinary arts and bilingual studies, etc.   

According to Montoya, when the proposal for the school was presented to the New Mexico Educational Department, it was chartered by all commissioners immediately, which is rare in most cases. “We were very excited when that happened,” said Montoya. “Hopes are that this school will be a great success and we look forward to starting this venture!”

To learn more about any RFP’s available through RAC, please visit For more information on La Tierra Montessori School, go to


-Erika Martinez, July 2012