A “domino effect” of delays and contingency plans was set into motion when the opening of Mill Street Elementary School was postponed to Oct. 15, according to Lewisville ISD Superintendent Kevin Rogers.
District officials announced Aug. 2 that Mill Street Elementary would not be open in time for the first day of school after bad weather days delayed construction. As a result, the district enacted a contingency plan for the 562 students who were slated to start school at the new elementary Aug. 13.
According to LISD Chief Communication Officer Amanda Brim, 251 kindergarten, first and second grade Mill Street Elementary students will spend the first nine weeks of the school year at College Street Elementary. An additional 311 prekindergarten, third, fourth and fifth grade Mill Street students will do the same at Central Elementary.
About 35 families have at least one child going to each school, according to Brim.
“We are spending a little more money on some transportation short-term because we’re wanting to make sure that we’re making this as easy as possible for those parents and the students between two campuses,” Rogers said.
Building Mill Street Elementary cost $37 million, and was funded by a school bond passed by voters in May 2017. Rogers said the delayed opening has not increased the price of building the school.
The delay has not created overcrowding in district classrooms either, he said.
College Street Elementary, which is set to be replaced by Mill Street Elementary, was already completely vacant after the district retired the facility at the end of the 2018-19 school year.
Additionally, some students who were originally enrolled at Central Elementary were set to attend Mill Street Elementary this year, leaving 15 classrooms vacant. Those are now being used by Mill Street Elementary students until the new school opens.
The domino effect
A couple of other LISD projects have been delayed as a result of the late opening of Mill Street Elementary.
Had the delay not happened, College Street Elementary would currently be under renovation, as would the 15-classroom area of Central Elementary now being used by Mill Street students, Rogers said.
The renovated area at College Street will house the Teaching for Emotional, Academic, and Motivational Success program, he said. The program is for students who need a high level of structure and consistent behavior management to succeed in a school setting, Rogers said. The district also intends to move its Disciplinary Alternative Education Program to the retired elementary school once it is renovated. DAEP is for students who are removed from regular classes for disciplinary reasons.
The portion of Central Elementary being used by Mill Street students is set to be renovated to house special education staff, Rogers said.
“We wish that [the renovation] would have been already started,” Rogers said.
Both programs are already housed at other district facilities, with DAEP being split between two different sites.
“Our goal in opening Mill Street was to really become more efficient,” Rogers said, adding that the new school is also intended to prevent future overcrowding at other campuses.
Adjusting to a change in plans
Mill Street Elementary Principal Susan Heintzman said teachers and students have taken the delay in stride.
“It has been absolutely amazing how positive our teachers have been,” Heintzman said in a statement to Community Impact Newspaper. “It’s all about our students learning to be leaders and thriving, no matter where we are located, and it shows when I walk the classrooms. Our parents and students have also been fantastic. Everyone understands that this is temporary, and the end result will be a beautiful school for our students to learn.”
Rogers said Mill Street Elementary students are being served as a unit from the time they are bused to school and when they eat lunch to when they are in the classroom. Additionally, the students are being taught by the same teachers who will continue with them when the new school opens, he said.
Heintzman said she spent time at both campuses during the first week of school. For the second week, she spent a few days at a time at each campus so she could be more available to each group of teachers, parents and students.
“It’s great that the two campuses are so close together, so if I’m needed at a campus, I can get there within minutes,” she said. “I also have two assistant principals who are doing a great job at their particular campus, so that there is someone consistent every day. The district has also hired an additional principal to be present at a campus opposite my schedule so that there are two administrators at each school each day.”
Luis Cuevas, Mill Street Elementary PTA treasurer, told Community Impact Newspaper in a statement that after a wet summer and observing the gradual progress on the construction site, it was no surprise that the school opening was postponed.
He said having kids at both campuses initially created some logistical confusion, but it got easier after the first week of school.
“I know the staff has been working hard to make things as accommodating as possible given the circumstances,” Cuevas said. “I know my kids have been nervous to start at a new campus and with the split it has created some more changes than they expected. I feel students and parents are making the best of the situation.”