Ponder makes way for progress

Posted Monday, Aug. 26, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Joe Bethune and his daughters Kelly and Mary watched silently as an excavator ripped away the front entry of Alice Ponder Elementary on Monday morning.

“I cried when I saw it coming down,” Kelly said. “I went to school here. I’m 37, so there are a lot of memories of good teachers and good friends. It’s going to be gone even though there is a new school coming.”

Alice Ponder Elementary, 102 Pleasant Ridge Drive, was the second in a series of five elementary schools fated to be bulldozed and replaced by fall of 2017. The $69 million, five-school project is part of the $198.5 million bond program approved in November 2011. The rest of the bond funds are earmarked for security and technology upgrades and improvements for the other 37 campuses in the district.

The 46-year-old Ponder is the oldest of the five buildings targeted for replacement. Demolition dates have not been set for the Tarver-Rendon, Glenn Harmon and Charlotte Anderson elementary school buildings.

Ponder’s students and staff started school Monday in the old Tarver-Rendon building at 12350 Rendon Road, whose students and staff are in their new building at 6065 Retta Mansfield Road.

School board member Karen Marcucci, whose three daughters attend Alice Ponder, said her girls were only sad that they missed the demolition on the first day of school.

“They went to the dedication of the new schools yesterday and were so excited about the new schools,” Marcucci said.

The 77,641-square-foot Ponder building had a capacity of 740 students, only slightly less than the 800-student capacity of the 80,000-square-foot replacement building. But with Ponder’s spring enrollment of 580 students, space has not become an issue.

The demolition crew actually started on the back side of Ponder, earlier than the publicly announced start of 9 a.m. But a large backhoe came around front at the appointed time and started crushing walls with its long-armed scoop for the handful of spectators.

“They started on the back, but they made sure everybody had something to see,” said district spokesman Richie Escovedo. “It pretty much ate through it like it was nothing.”

J.L. Boren Elementary, 1400 Country Club Drive, was the first elementary to be leveled July 29. Its students and staff moved in to the newly constructed Judy K. Miller Elementary School at 403 N. Holland Road, which later will be temporary home to the students and employees of Harmon and then Anderson as they wait for their new buildings.

The schools’ designs will follow the district’s new prototype for elementary schools, which includes two stories, more efficient use of classroom and other space, two dedicated computer labs, bigger library and bigger clinic and office for the school nurse. Also, the schools will have a secure vestibule entrance to funnel people through the main reception area.

The new schools will be built using an energy efficient concrete wall construction technique, and all but Anderson, which has too many trees, will have geothermal heating.

All district schools will have keyless access systems, security cameras throughout the buildings and expanded wireless Internet access.

District officials, saying they’re trying to make the conversion as painless as possible, are allowing all students attending a substitute school to ride a school bus if they want. That offer has prompted the district to purchase 18 new school buses, nine each for Ponder and Boren.

“The plan is to do the same thing when we get to the Harmon and Anderson campuses,” Escovedo said.

And while Ponder and Boren students and staffs are at their temporary homes, their classes will start 10 minutes earlier this year to help parents with students at more than one school, he said.

Classes at both schools are from 7:50 a.m. to 3:20 p.m.

Robert Cadwallader, 817-390-7641 Twitter: @Kaddmann

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