FIRST LOOK: Modernized Menchaca Elementary School to open to students Jan. 8

The new Menchaca Elementary School campus will open to students Jan. 8. It is located next door to the current campus, which will be demolished and converted to green space for the district. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
The new Menchaca Elementary School campus will open to students Jan. 8. It is located next door to the current campus, which will be demolished and converted to green space for the district. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)

The new Menchaca Elementary School campus will open to students Jan. 8. It is located next door to the current campus, which will be demolished and converted to green space for the district. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)

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Menchace Principal Eliza Loyola and Drew Johnson, AISD's director of bond planning and controls, stand next to a Menchaca Mustang statue at the new campus Dec. 17. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
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Collaborative and flexible learning spaces are prominently featured at modernized Austin ISD campuses, including Menchaca Elementary. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
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Loyola and Johnson stand in the schol's Maker Space. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
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The Menchaca Elementary Maker Space is a creative learning space with views of the school campus. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
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The Menchaca Elementary library will have soft seating, a request by students. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
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Classrooms at modernized campuses will have flexible furniture and equipment to maximize classroom space and learning opportunities. Windows and dry erase boards are also hung low on walls to allow young students to use them. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
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Menchaca Elementary is designed to create "learning neighborhoods," where individual classrooms share a centralized space with tables, seating and other resources for students. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
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Austin ISD modernized campuses will also include community rooms, where public events, presentations and performances can be held at the school without opening the campus to additional visitors. At Menchaca Elementary, the community room is attached to the administrative building and front office. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
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Menchaca Elementary teachers will have staff rooms that include work stations, storage and dry erase boards for planning. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
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Menchaca Elementary art rooms have large windows and a garage door that can open to allow students to be inspired by nature. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
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Johnson gives a tour of the new Menchaca Elementary facility. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
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Menchaca Elementary School will have three new buildings connected by a covered walkway. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
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A central courtyard is located between the three Menchaca Elementary buildings. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
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Playgrounds at Menchaca Elementary will be Americans with Disabilities Act compliant. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
Menchaca Elementary School students will officially move into a new, modernized school campus in South Austin when they return from winter break Jan. 8.

The $33.2 million project—which broke ground in August 2018 as part of Austin ISD’s 2017 bond—includes three newly constructed school buildings with a total enrollment capacity of 870 students, Drew Johnson, AISD's director of bond planning and controls, told Community Impact Newspaper during a tour of the new facility Dec. 17. The facility will replace the current Menchaca campus, which has a capacity of only 606 students and utilizes portables to house some of its current 723 students, he said.

The old Menchaca building has undergone numerous renovations and expansions over the past 40 years but would again be due for significant repair if it were to keep operating, according to Menchaca Principal Eliza Loyola.

"[The old building] is very demoralizing for our staff," said Loyola, who has been principal for the past five years and has worked at Menchaca for 15 years. "Teachers didn't feel appreciated or respected or that they had a space to work in, and that compounds over time. It's very emotional moving over here [to the new building]."

Once staff, students and supplies have completely moved into the new facility, the old building will be demolished and converted to district green space, Johnson said. He said the school site used to be a park, and it will be converted to something close to its original state.


Menchaca Elementary will be one of the first modernized AISD campuses to open through approval of the 2017 bond. Modernized schools focus on more collaborative and flexible learning spaces than those built prior.

"The modernized schools are all different layouts but have similar functions," Johnson said. "It kind of all depends on how we designed it with the community."

Features of Menchaca include a large library and media room with ample seating types, a Maker Space for creative group activities and additional rooms with flexible uses. “Learning neighborhoods,” which are centralized spaces shared by multiple classrooms, are also set up at the school to encourage collaboration and the sharing or resources.

She said having three separate buildings was intentional in design, with the goal of connecting indoor and outdoor learning opportunities for students. The campus features large trees in its courtyards, and some rooms—such as art rooms—have large windows or glass doors that can be opened to encourage student creativity, she said.

Modernized campuses across the district will also feature community rooms—spaces where public events, presentations, performances or voting stations can be held without disrupting the school community, Johnson said. At Menchaca, the community room is located in the school’s administrative building and attached to the main office.

Loyola said the new space will require teachers to think and teach differently, but staff are excited to move into the building in January.

"We are so lucky," she said. "It's really changing our habits and our patterns because you have to get used to being in that type of space."

An official dedication ceremony for the new campus, located at 12120 Menchaca Road, Austin, will be held by the district Jan. 10. A community open house with food and entertainment will be held at the campus Jan. 11 from 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
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By Nicholas Cicale

Nick was born in Long Island, New York and grew up in South Florida. He graduated from Florida State University in 2012 with a bachelor's degree in writing and a minor in music. Nick was a journalist for three years at the St. James Plaindealer in Minnesota before moving to Austin to join Community Impact Newspaper in 2016.


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