Students from the four schools scheduled to close in May as part of EPISD’s ‘Rightsizing for the Future’ initiative visited their new campuses on Thursday to help them become familiar with the facilities and the teachers they will have starting next school year.
The field trips included tours, goodie bags and – later in the evening – an open house for parents.
Students in grades pre-k through fourth from Alta Vista, Beall, Burleson and Schuster elementary schools visited their soon-to-be new campuses: Coldwell, Douglass, Zavala and Dowell, respectively.
“EPISD is focused on making this important transition as easy and seamless as possible for the students and families impacted,” said Superintendent Juan E. Cabrera. “Our receiving campuses are excited and happy to welcome the new students. I am confident that this transition will be beneficial for everyone.”
Dowell Elementary Principal Yeni Ontiveros personally high-fived every Schuster student that walked through the front door on Thursday. They’re all familiar faces since also is the principal at Schuster.
During her welcome remarks, Ontiveros announced to the Schuster Patriots that the Dowell Owls would officially become the Patriot Owls starting in the fall – an indication that the two schools were coming together.
“We’re very excited with this transition and this open house allows our Schuster students to become more familiar with their surroundings and the staff before the consolidation,” she said. “The students from both campuses are extremely excited to have new classmates. It’s been very positive.”
Principal Yeni Ontiveros showcased Dowell with a short video featuring messages from students. The Schuster kids cheered and smiled throughout the video – High School Musical’s “We’re All In this Together” played fittingly in the background.
Schuster teacher Stormy Daniels said the reception at Dowell helped calm some of the nerves her students have about the move.
“Even though they’re a little nervous, getting to go on the visit makes it that much more calming for them. They are making the connection as to what they have now at Schuster and what they’ll have at Dowell, so it’s not a scary thing.”
The students left with t-shirts featuring the Dowell Owl mascot – a memento from their visit and a further sign of unity. “I feel welcome because of all the things they did for us,” said Schuster fourth grader Fernando Reyes. “I’m excited because I got to meet new people and new teachers.”
The sentiment was shared throughout EPISD as Coldwell, Zavala and Douglass elementary schools offered similar tours to welcome the Alta Vista, Burleson and Beall elementary students.
The campuses are set to unite for the 2019-20 school year. The Coldwell teachers and students took in their Alta Vista counterparts by spending some quality time in their classrooms doing projects, icebreakers and other interactive activities to build the foundation for the coming year.
The lessons went seamlessly. With both students sharing purple as their school color, they already appeared to be one student body.
“We want them to make friendships and focus more on social-emotional learning,” said principal Jose Gijon. “It’s been fun for students and great for both campuses.”
Alta Vista fourth-grader Daniel Galicia looks forward to exploring his new campus and meeting new friends. He got to know his future classmate Mariah Reyes a bit more after a short question and answer exercise. But what most impressed him about the 2011 National Blue Ribbon School.
“It’s beautiful and big.” Mariah seemed to be the perfect ambassador for Coldwell. “I really think it’s going to be fun for me to have new friends and for them to experience this wonderful school,” she said. “I talk to them and make them feel like they are already part of the school. They have all these programs to help students here. If they’re having trouble, they do everything they can to help them. I really love our school.”
Down in the Chamizal neighborhood, the students from Beall Elementary eagerly walked into what will be their new home starting in August: Douglass Elementary.
Maria Guerra, the principal at both campuses, said the staff at Douglass beyond happy to finally meet the Beall students who will now be a part of the Dragon Family.
“We have the Bowie drum line and cheerleaders here to welcome them and to show them that no matter what school, we are all part of one happy family,” she said. “I know that the Douglass students are excited to welcome their new friends, and our goal is to show the Beall community that we are here to serve their needs.”
The mood was just as cheerful down the street at Zavala, which was welcoming students from Burleson. Zavala students lined up to welcome the buses carrying the students from Burleson.
“We worked hard to make them feel welcome,” said Zavala fifth-grader Jose Villanueva. “We want them to know they’re going to have a great time at this school.”
Story by Reneé de Santos | Photos by Leonel Monroy