When the James and Barbara Adams Elementary School opens at 2220 Sherry Street in August, the ooohs and ahhhs at its clean lines and contemporary styling are likely to be followed with sighs of relief from students and teachers all across east Arlington.With 800 students moving to Adams, nearby Atherton and Johns elementaries still will be near student capacity, but they can shed the rows of temporary classrooms cluttering their campuses.“This is just the first step in an overall strategy to relieve overcrowding in East Arlington schools,” said Marcelo Cavazos, school superintendent as he toured the Adams campus last week.Classroom additions that will provide space for 200 students each will be made next year at Knox, Rankin and Blanton elementaries, and two more new 900-student elementaries will be constructed and opened in 2015 and 2016, Cavazos said.Adams, at 111,000 square feet, is the first two-story elementary school to be built in the district, maximizing the use of site space and the number of students that can be accommodated. Kindergarten, first and second grades are on the ground floor and older children will be in classrooms upstairs.“I’ve been so excited I can’t eat or sleep,” said new principal Lesley Rhodes, who left her job in the Grand Prairie district June 19 and began her assignment at Adams the next day. Rhodes was most recently the dean of instruction and testing coordinator at South Grand Prairie Ninth Grade Center.Landscaping is already planted on the 11.8-acre-site, along with fencing and a marquee. Inside, desks, equipment and books are being put in their places “I am so amazed and overwhelmed with the learning possibilities of this place,” added third-grade teacher Carolyn Harvey, who stopped by on Thursday to take pictures of her new classroom. Harvey is transferring along with many of her students from Atherton. Most of the 35 Adams teachers will be transferred from Atherton and Johns.Harvey said the three dedicated outdoor learning areas with seating and landscaping impressed her.Each grade level has a collaboration area, which is an unstructured open space with carpeting and seating for interactive learning.Computer and science labs, areas for art and music, a spacious gym, library on the second floor and a cafetorium with theatrical lighting on the stage are all new elements at the school.The greatest luxury, however, is the space. Fifteen of the 19 elementaries in east-central Arlington are overcrowded, and if Adams had not been built, administrators say 17 of 19 would have been overcrowded in the near future.The cost to build Adams and the $13.7 million in classroom additions are part of the $197.5 million 2009 bond package approved by voters. Adams’ price was $22 million, including land, materials, furnishings and construction costs, according to Bob Carlisle, the district’s executive director of plant services.The second new elementary school will be paid for with $23.5 million in district funds already set aside by trustees. Administrators say no debt will be incurred on its construction.Arlington trustees voted to file resolutions to acquire two undeveloped parcels of land in Grand Prairie east of Highway 360 at last week’s school board meeting. The acquisition will be made for the school’s campus using eminent domain. An 11.4-acre site at 925 Preakness and an adjoining 11.8-acre site on the northeast corner of Preakness and Prairie Hill Lane are just east of Crouch Elementary, another overcrowded Arlington school. The district will offer $450,000 for the Preakness parcel and $1 million for the larger corner site.The third planned elementary school will be built on the Workman Junior High School campus, which has room for another building. Its funding source has not yet been finalized, Cavazos said.“It could be included in a future bond election, but we’re not there yet,” he said. When completed, Cavazos said, the projects should take care of the overcrowding problem for at least 10 years.
Shirley Jinkins, 817-390-7657 Twitter: @shirljinkins