Officials Break Ground On Jones-Boshears Campus
By MEGAN MIDDLETON
Two school communities came together Tuesday for a ceremonial groundbreaking to celebrate the start of construction of their new joint campus.
The new campus will combine Mattie Jones Elementary School with the St. Louis School-Wayne D. Boshears Center for Exceptional Pro-grams, a school for students with special needs.
Tyler ISD Superintendent Dr. Randy Reid told the crowd gathered for the groundbreaking that the district was embarking on a "unique mission" with this facility.
"We're building a school that's going to be unlike any other one -- not only in Tyler, but unlike almost any school anywhere in the state of Texas," Reid said. "We think this is going to be a great opportunity for us to take the history and the wonderful aspects of two of our campuses and combine them together."
Students watch as officials break ground on the combined campus.
The new Jones-Boshears campus is one of five schools TISD is building as part of the $124.9 million bond election voters approved in November.
TISD also is building schools to replace Clarkston, Griffin, Orr and Woods elementary schools.
COMBINED CAMPUS: Above, Tyler Independent School District officials break ground on the new Jones-Boshears school Tuesday. Doing the groundbreaking honors: (from left) TISD School Board President Ron Vickery, TISD Superintendent Dr. Randy Reid, Trustee Eleno Licea, Trustee Shirley Jordan, Trustee Therelee Washington, St. Louis Principal Karyn Hacker, former St. Louis Principal Wayne Boshears, Trustee Brad Spradlin and Jones Principal Patricia Lewis.
According to information previously given to the school board, one side of the new Jones-Boshears campus will be single story and contain classrooms for the Boshears students.
The other side of the campus will be a two-story, 500-student elementary school for the Jones students. The campus also contains shared spaces, such as the cafeteria.
The architects working on the project are Sinclair & Wright Architects and Corgan Associates. Denson Construction is the construction company working on the project.
It is located along Chandler Highway, also known as Front Street, near Loop 323, behind the Westwood Shopping Center.
The district plans to open most of the new schools from the 2008 bond program in August 2010. The opening of the new Griffin Elementary likely will be delayed because of site acquisition issues, Reid has said.
In attendance at Tuesday's ceremony was Wayne Boshears, who the facility is partly named after as well as several school board members and other officials.
The Jones-Boshears campus groundbreaking is the fourth of five groundbreaking events for TISD for schools that are part of the 2008 bond program.
And Board President Ron Vickery said, "Of all of them, I may be the most excited about this particular school."
"This is not only going to provide us some operational efficiencies as a district, but it's going to provide us some opportunities that we can really do some creative things with our two campuses that are just going to be phenomenal," Vickery said.
Before the ceremony, St. Louis School Principal Karyn Hacker said of reaching the start of construction, "The reality of the dream is coming more true every day."
"When we first heard the bond had passed, it was really, really exciting. It's like this is just unbelievable," she said, adding, "I think today is the day that really starts making it real."
Staff members who have seen the plans for the school, "can't believe how beautiful it's going to be," Hacker said.
She called the architects "amazing."
"For our part of the school, it's so different than some of the others are doing," she said. "They (the architects) spent a lot of time listening to what our dream was and they came back with a visual picture of what our dream was. It was amazing. ΓΆΒ?Β» And we've just been thrilled with the way they've been working with us."
Having a new facility will be uplifting for staff and students, but more important, Hacker said, "the facility we've been in is a wonderful facility, but it was never intended for the population we're serving now."
In the new school, halls and doors will be wider for those students who use wheelchairs and bathrooms will be designed for special-needs students, offering them more privacy, she said.
The principal said an arena and spa, amenities at the current school, will be at the new school as well.
"We're anxious to be in a building that's designed for us," she said.
Peyton Conner, a St. Louis student, said of getting a brand new school, "It's cool" and said he is looking forward to attending there.
Jones students and officials are looking forward to the new facility as well.
"It is so exciting to see the dirt move and the trucks out here and the men working so hard," Jones Principal Patricia Lewis said after the ceremony. "It's the beginning of a creation that I know is going to make a true difference for children. It just gives me chills that we are finally at this point."
Lewis said the architects, the school board, the superintendent and the facilities director, "have honestly listened to me as a principal and my teachers ΓΆΒ?Β» and are building this school for the needs of my students, and it is going to make a huge impact on their academics now and in the future."
Eva Alfaro has two children attending Jones and she attended Jones when she was a child as well.
"This is very exciting for me and I know it's exciting for them," she said after the groundbreaking. "I think it's a great school."
She said she thinks it's a good idea the district is combining Jones with the St. Louis School.
"They're going to learn a lot from that ΓΆΒ?Β» that there's a lot of other different kids. ΓΆΒ?Β» They're going to learn to be more responsible, more helpful," Alfaro said.
Her son, third-grader Ruben Alfaro, said he was really excited about getting a new school that would be bigger than the current one. In fact, he said he thinks it will be "like high school."
"We're going to have fun at this new school," he said.