Alice Ponder and J.L. Boren elementary school students came home last week. After 18 months in other buildings, the staff and students moved into their rebuilt schools Jan. 6.
“We’re just so happy to be home,” said counselor Cheryl Ferrell as she directed students to their new classrooms on the first day. “We called it the hotel at the other place.”
The two new schools are part of the $198.5 million bond, approved by voters in 2011, that includes replacing five elementary schools. For the past 18 months, Students from Alice Ponder have been attending school at the former Tarver-Rendon Elementary at 12350 Rendon Road, while J.L. Boren students were at Judy Miller Elementary (a new school that hasn’t opened as its own campus yet) at 403 N. Holland Road.
The new Tarver-Rendon Elementary opened in 2013, and students at Glenn Harmon Elementary moved into Judy Miller Elementary last week, and demolition is expected to begin this month on that school. The school board is considering whether to move up demolition and construction at Charlotte Anderson Elementary. All of the schools, except Tarver Rendon, were rebuilt or will be rebuilt on the same site.
Alice Ponder and J.L. Boren teachers and students spent most of the first day getting acquainted with their new buildings.
“We treated last week, especially the first day, as if it were the first week of school,” said John Williams, principal at J.L. Boren Elementary, 1401 Country Club Drive. “The teachers took them on tours to see where everything was.”
The layout at the new J.L. Boren is the same as Judy Miller, only reversed. Ferrell and second-grader Makinsey Parker stood in the hall on the first morning with large signs directing students to their classes.
“When I leave the office, I have to stop and think,” Williams said.
Staff and students both appreciate the colors at the new school, he said.
“It just has a very warm feeling,” he said.
Across town at the new Alice Ponder Elementary at 102 Pleasant Ridge Drive, students were overwhelmed.
“They’ve been blown away,” said Ponder Principal David Thayer. “You can see them get off the bus and get a deer in the headlights look.”
The lunchroom and the extra space were tops on fourth-grade teacher Natalie Toomey’s list on opening day.
Students were excited about other things, like the second floor (the old Ponder and Tarver Rendon are one-story buildings), windows in their classrooms, gym, cafeteria, art room with a view and motion-activated hand dryers and faucets.
“It has a better scent,” said fourth-grader Amelia Marcucci, as all of her classmates nodded vigorously.
Substitute Judy Baughman, who taught at Alice Ponder for 20 years, took her first-graders on a tour of the second floor, stopping to look down at the gym through windows on the second floor.
“That gym is the very same size as your old gym,” she told the excited group.
Dedication for the two new schools is set for Feb. 1, with Alice Ponder at 2 p.m. and J.L. Boren at 3:45 p.m. J.L. Boren will also hold an open house from 4-7 p.m. Jan. 22. Alice Ponder Elementary had a sneak peek the night before the school opened to let students get acclimated.
Amanda Rogers, 817-473-4451