Burges students, alumni, faculty and even a slew of former principals came together on Friday to officially open the EPISD Bond transformation of the 66-year-old school into a state-of-the-art modern campus.
The $57.8-million upgrades to Burges feature a new two-story building with science labs and classrooms, renovations of existing classrooms, a signature courtyard, a new softball field and a new fine-arts facility that includes El Paso’s largest black box theater.
Friday’s official ribbon-cutting commemorated the completion of the EPISD Bond’s second largest construction project.
“I love seeing the transformation of this school,” said student body president Marisol Castillo. “It makes me feel so proud because this school has been part of my life for as long as I can remember since most of my family came here. It’s a beautiful campus.”
She looks forward to seeing students carry on old traditions while incorporating some new ones into the mix.
“We have an amazing history,” Castillo said. “We’re starting a new legacy with the new school decorating new hallways and creating new traditions.”
Burges alum and EPISD Board President Al Velarde shared his excitement with guests of the ceremony. Attending Burges has been a Velarde family tradition.
“To see the transformation that has occurred here at Burges is remarkable,” Velarde said. “I’m so happy for the kids that are here today and will be here tomorrow because Burges is ready to meet the next 50 years of education in El Paso.”
When asked his favorite aspect of the modernization, he said “all these parts are my favorite.”
But he pointed specifically to the new quad/courtyard area with a sense of pride.
“There was nothing that caused us to stick around at lunch or after school so we left campus,” Velarde said. “Now what we have is a place where kids can come together and socialize, have lunch outside and have classes out here. It’s such a neat addition to this campus.”
He also spoke about the new fine arts facility and how it will make a difference for students.
“The fine arts addition is so tremendous,” he said. “They now have state-of-the-art fine arts facilities with the individual rooms that they can practice in. The black box theater is something that’s next to none. It really gives opportunities to the theater program that is recognized across the state.”
During the ceremony, interim Superintendent Vince Sheffield introduced Jason Yturralde, principal of Ross and Henderson middle schools, as Burges’ next principal.
“Mr. Yturralde has been a dedicated EPISD leader and a true advocate for students,” Sheffield said in introducing Yturralde.
Yturralde sat among his predecessors – former Burges principals Nick Cobos, Ernie Watts, Dr. Randall Woods and Chris Smith – ready to take on the challenge of his new role. His first official day on the job is Oct. 18.
“When I walked in this morning, my only thought was: absolutely gorgeous,” Yturralde said. “This brand-new construction is beautiful. Anyone who sees it from the interior or exterior will want to become a Mustang. It will help us with recruitment and retention of students.”
Yturralde, who was first a principal at Coldwell Elementary, has been principal at Ross Middle since 2012. He greeted many of his former Ross students during the festivities, posing for photos and chatting with the kids he met as middle schoolers.
“To be principal here is a dream I’ve had a long time,” Yturralde said. “I’ve been part of the feeder pattern for years, so coming to Burges is like coming home.”
Class of 1959 alum Carol Mounsey proudly returned home for the official opening of the new Burges. She was among the first graduating classes that attended the campus for the full four years.
“It’s gorgeous. Absolutely gorgeous,” Mounsey said. “It doesn’t look like it did when I went to school here. It’s going to have a big impact on the community and on the students.”
She fondly remembers her days at Burges, taking care of kids in a home economics class and going to football games.
“I don’t think we won any football games when I was there, but we went to the games,” she said. “We had a lot of fun.”
Sophomore Luis Espinoza took photos of the festivities for student council, making sure he caught all the ceremonial pieces including the cheerleaders and the band welcoming guests. He was excited to return to a new school after a year of virtual school.
“I love photography and I love recording,” he said. “I love how I’m capturing a piece of history for generations to see.”