Students, teachers find a new home
As the 2004-2005 school year winds down, dozens of elementary school teachers and hundreds of students are preparing for a big move.
Construction is nearly complete and staffing is in place for the Lockhart Independent School District”s newest campus, Bluebonnet Elementary School, which will house students from Pre-Kindergarten through fifth grade beginning with the 20
05-2006 school year. The campus will be led by principal Jesus Espinoza, a relative newcomer to bot Lockhart and to elementary education, and Lockhart native and current Clearfork Elementary administrator, assistant principal Karla Tate.
Espinoza comes to Bluebonnet from Del Valle Junior High, where he was a principal. He has been an educator for 19 years, beginning his career in Del Valle as a truant officer, and later moving to Westlake High School, where he was a coach and assistant principal. Espinoza has also worked at Hays High School.
“The functions are the same, as far as budgets, classroom walk-throughs and such,” he said. “I”m not there to govern. We want everyone to have input, and we want Bluebonnet to be a place where the kids love coming to school and the teachers love coming to work.”
Tate has worked in LISD her entire career, beginning at Lockhart Junior High, then spending eight years at Lockhart high, including two as assistant principal. She then transferred to Clearfork Elementary, where she has been assistant principal for the last five years.
“I like a new challenge,” Tate said of her decision to move from Clearfork to Bluebonnet. “It”s appealing to be a part of building a campus from the ground up.”
Espinoza is as excited to have Tate on board as she is to be there. He believes that her knowledge of the community, the students and the parents will be an asset to Bluebonnet, and, more importantly, to the students who will attend the new school next year.
“She and I work well as a team and with us, it truly is teamwork,” he said. “Our priority is to make sure that the students and the adults – the parents and the staff – are happy.”
As early as March, Espinoza and Tate were meeting with teachers at other campuses, recruiting staff for the new school.
“We”ve had lots of interest from inside,” Tate said. “We”ve met with the teachers, and we”re hearing not only from the elementary teachers, but some from the junior high, as well.”
Last month, the LISD Board of Trustees approved requests from several teachers to transfer to the new campus.
The state-of-the-art campus includes not only the latest in technology, including computer and connectivity equipment, but is also home to a large library, two gymnasiums and classroom space sufficient for up to 600 students.
“Clearfork is at capacity now,” Tate said. “There is no room for physical therapy for the special education students, and we are often forced to hold meetings in classrooms because there”s no conference space.”
Lockhart”s other elementary campuses, Plum Creek, Navarro and Carver Kindergarten, have similar problems. It is the district”s hope that the opening of the Bluebonnet campus will provide relief to the other campuses, as well as leaving room in all five buildings for expansion and growth within the student body.
Plans for Bluebonnet Elementary began around 2000, when Lockhart”s population was booming. It was estimated, at that time, that the population of the district”s elementary schools would be beyond capacity by the time construction on the new facility was complete. Although economic conditions have slowed the district”s growth somewhat, the district still has a need for additional classroom space. According to district representatives, the bond funds voted on by district voters in 2002 could only be used for the construction of an elementary campus. The construction estimates totaled nearly $10 million, but the project has stayed within budget to date.
“We”re looking forward to having the campus opened,” Tate said last week. “The contractors originally estimated that they could turn [possession of the building] over to us in late May. It”s going to be a little later than they thought, but we”re going to have a grand opening later this summer.”
Tate said construction was nearly complete, and the administrators, support staff and librarians would be able to move in next month. Teachers could be able to move in and prepare their classrooms as early as late-June.