A mix of excitement and nervousness marked the return to school in EPISD Monday as thousands of students returned to in-person learning – many for the first time in more than 18 months.
Parents of Pre-K 4 students prepared for their children to stay for all-day Pre-K while other students learned to navigate brand new schools and consolidated campuses built from the El Paso ISD Bond.
In total, El Paso ISD welcomed more than 50,000 students to the new school year.
“We are excited to welcome our students back to school for face-to-face instruction – especially those joining us at our new facilities,” said El Paso ISD Interim Superintendent Vince Sheffield. “These new campuses and consolidations are beautiful, state-of-the-art facilities that modernize our District.”
Among the new campuses is Don Haskins PK-8 – a combination of Bond and Roberts elementary schools and Lincoln Middle. Dowell and Crosby elementary schools also combined into the new Coach Archie Duran Elementary. Across town, General Douglas MacArthur PK-8 welcomed former Bonham Elementary students. Bradley and Fannin elementary schools combined last spring into the new Dr. Joseph Torres Elementary School. However, the school is new to all those students who had selected to remain virtual last spring.
At the newly constructed Burges High School, students hung out in the courtyard meeting up with old friends, deciphering their schedules and figuring out how to get to their new classes.
“I’m looking forward to the actual high school experience – pep rallies, football games, all those things we didn’t get to do last year,” said sophomore Kyra Guereque. “I didn’t get to really experience the old campus, but the new campus is awesome. It has a different vibe.”
Senior Lainey Bejarano also looks forward to returning to live instruction and having an actual high school experience at the new Burges.
“I see this year as a new fresh start and I think it’s going to be fun now that Burges is redone,” Bejarano said. “The school is beautiful – everything is so pretty, especially the courtyard in the middle. I think it’s the perfect school to be able to learn – the perfect learning environment and place to meet new people and new friends. I love it, absolutely love it.”
Bejarano was among Burges’ Lariat dancers and mascots welcoming and posing for pictures with students from General MacArthur PreK-8 as students ventured into their newly consolidated campus. The consolidation included Bond projects that added drop off/pick up zones, new landscaping, a new multipurpose facility and a new fine arts facility.
“It’s an exciting day for our community as we consolidate and come together and make everyone feel welcome at our new General Douglas MacArthur PreK-8,” said Principal Rose Ann Martinez. “All of our kids will eventually become Burges mustangs, so we felt bringing the Burges Lariats and mascot was a great way to welcome our students as we combine the colts of Bonham with the ponies of MacArthur.”
Staff and teachers surrounded MacArthur’s welcoming students back in all the new drop off areas, pointing them in the right direction – especially the new student originally zoned to Bonham.
“It feels so good to be back,” said campus patrol Lupe “Shorty” Lopez, welcoming students and parents crossing the crosswalk.
New fifth-grader Natalie Galvan already felt welcome. Dressed in her MacArthur uniform, the former Bonham colt was glad to get back to in-person school.
“I’m excited because I can meet a lot more people and new friends,” she said. “I didn’t really like it online because the internet would go out sometimes. It would get frustrating.”
Another exciting addition to the 2021-22 school year is the addition of Pathways in Technology Early College High School or P-TECH. Four EPISD high schools welcomed their first P-TECH cohorts, a program that allows students to earn an associates degree or industry certifications upon graduation. They include: Coronado, Business P-TECH; El Paso, Computer Science, P-TECH; and Franklin and Jefferson, Medical Science P-TECH.
“The idea of a college environment makes me nervous,” said El Paso High freshman Sarah Fronce said. “With PTECHS I will be introduced to a college environment and rigor, so I’ll be more prepared when I graduate.”
For Coronado freshman Madison Schwitters, P-TECH presented her with an opportunity to explore business.
“The P-TECHS business component at Coronado was appealing,” Schwitters said. “It will help me determine if I want to pursue business in the future. I definitely know it will be a challenge, but it will all be worth it.”
Authors: Reneé de Santos & Mia Cadena | Photos by Leonel Monroy, Jr. & Reneé de Santos – El Paso ISD