HOUSTON – Sept. 21, 2020 – Thousands more Spring ISD students returned to school on Monday as part of the district’s phased return to in-person learning for parents who select that option.
For ninth graders at Spring and Dekaney high schools, the day marked an especially important milestone, as the district for the first time opened two of its Ninth-Grade Centers. The projects were funded as part of the 2016 bond program. Westfield High School will open its ninth-grade center in the coming weeks.
“These new facilities come at such an important time for Spring ISD,” said Superintendent Rodney E. Watson. “We are grateful to the community who supported the bond projects and allowed us to move forward with these buildings, which will help us meet the academic and social needs of our new high school students. The timing couldn’t be better. They will help with social distancing during the pandemic.”
Monday marked the return of the district’s Safety-First In-Person ninth graders, and students in grades 3-7 and 10th grade. Next week will mark the final phase of the planned return, when all students choosing in-person learning will be back on campus.
Burchett Elementary School parent Lori Luna says she feels confident about her fourth and fifth grade daughters returning for in-person learning.
“After talking to the school and finding out all of the precautions they’re taking, I feel assured they’ll be okay safety-wise,” said Luna. “The interaction is what they’re missing the most.”
Spring ISD Chief of Police Ken Culbreath looked on as freshmen arrived for their first day of in-person learning at the new Dekaney Ninth-Grade Center. Each student went through routine check-in procedures, including temperature checks and wellness screenings.
“It’s great to see kids coming back,” Culbreath said. “It’s also great to see our staff and students want to be in school, all while everybody’s staying compliant with safety protocols.”
He said the opening of the new ninth-grade centers was an exciting moment for the district, giving students more room for social distancing and a dedicated space for making the transition into high school.
“It’s a big day for them, starting a new journey in their academic careers and coming to a new school during a pandemic,” Culbreath said. “The kids are learning to go to school in the middle of something we’ve never had before, so their resilience and ability to lead in the future will be on a different level.”
Dekaney High School ninth grader Royal Hammond said he was glad for the opportunity to take part in the school’s hybrid Safety-First In-Person learning. “It’s kind of difficult for me on the computer without the teacher to assist me,” said Hammond, adding that an unreliable internet connection at home also made him want to take advantage of the in-person option.
In addition to a three-story classroom wing, the Dekaney Ninth-Grade Center includes a one-story wing for auxiliary needs such as athletic spaces, a cafeteria and fine arts facilities. Administrative spaces are also located throughout the building to ensure a strong connection to student learning areas.
Asked for his first impressions of the new campus facility, Hammond said he was enjoying the large classrooms and built-in technology.
“It’s nice. I like it,” Hammond said. “I like the TVs on the wall and stuff. It’s cool.”
At the Spring High School Ninth-Grade Center, students were pleased to be back and excited about their new two-story campus. The 147,000-square-foot building features a media center and maker space near the entrance of the school. Collaboration hubs for students and teachers are located throughout the building for small-group pullout spaces and flexibility for various teaching models.
Ninth grade students at Westfield will be able to enjoy their new campus, including a dining commons, athletic areas and large modernized classroom spaces, in a few more weeks.
During a late-morning break in instruction, Westfield High School basketball coach and CTE teacher Louis Wright reflected on the return to school and how it felt to begin welcoming students back to in-person learning.
“It’s been great,” Wright said of the day. “The kids are finding their way and getting accustomed to the new normal. It’s all about flexibility.”
At nearby Bammel Middle School, parent Arlinda Smith was dropping off her son Joshua Bickham Jr. for his first day on the Bammel campus. Her three younger children are in Kindergarten, first grade and second grade at Meyer Elementary School, and Smith said she was happy her children had the option for in-person learning on campus.
“For me, personally, my children are more hands-on, so they learn better in person in an in-class setting. At home, I feel like they’re not going to learn as much as they can and use their potential as fully as they can.”
Smith, who moved with her family this summer from Louisiana, said that overall she was happy so far with the communications from her students’ schools, adding that the staff at Meyer had gone above and beyond in making sure her three new elementary students had everything they needed as they transitioned into Spring ISD. Smith said she was especially grateful to be able to choose the option that worked best for her and her children after starting the school year with online learning.
“It’s really, really tough being the mother of four and trying to make sure they’re doing everything they’re supposed to do,” Smith said. “I feel like they excel better in a class setting, because at home, it’s a distraction.”