The doors of the Mesita Early Childhood Development Center at Vilas opened today to 390 prekindergarten through first grade students pumping new life into a century-old building and the surrounding neighborhood.
“What an amazing opportunity to establish an early childhood center to focus on the social, emotional and academic needs of our youngest of students,” said principal Laila Ferris, who has been principal of the main campus for 19 years. “This is where you build the foundation that shoots students forward for success.”
Buses filled with wide-eyed Mesita Mustangs eager for the first day of school dropped off the children in front of the new ECDC this morning after a short drive from Mesita Elementary where 750 second through fifth graders learn. Many parents followed, heading to the cafeteria to get their last glimpse of their children as they headed to class for the start of the year.
“I think it’s great situation for both schools,” parent Janine Gallinar said. “No. 1, it’s helping preserve a really historical school. Also, having an early child focus and UTEP’s intelligence and guidance is very positive.”
Gallinar is referring to the ECDC partnership with the University of Texas at El Paso’s College of Education, which establishes a student-teacher lab and research center at the center.
Transportation, opportunities for parent feedback and the option to learn Mandarin Chinese made the transition easier for many parents, including Gallinar.
Through the ECDC, Mesita will continue to build on its highly successful Gifted and Talented Connecting Worlds/Mundos Unidos program as well as the traditional two-way dual language.
Parent Lizette Wilder, who has a third grader at the main Mesita campus, visited Vilas this morning. Her younger child will be attending there next year and likes the focus on early child development the younger students will receive at the ECDC.
“The little ones will get the focus they need,” she said. “This makes sense for a school at risk of closing because of low enrollment. These two schools will help each other.”
PTA President Monica Benjamin stood outside the school glad to see the project come to fruition after many months of work with parents and administration. “I like that the (younger) kids are in their own school,” she said. “It’s going to be a good learning experience for our kids.”
Mesita’s Active Learning Leader Cindy Montes-Bustamante sees the excitement of the new venture through her daughter Eliza Bustamante’s young eyes. The first grader had been familiar with the campus but never as a student.
“She’s excited to be in first grade and in the inaugural class here,” Montes-Bustamante, a 17-year veteran teacher at Mesita, said. “What helped was when she saw that all of her friends came with her.”
The first grader smiled as she walked by mom, who will split her time at both campuses.
“Our feeder is so small. This is a great way to be together,” she said. “The building has so much charm and personality. I’m glad this is what became of it.”