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The nearly 2,000 students and staff had been housed at the old ninth grade campus next door to the new La Joya High School since the school was formed in 2008. The facilities there were missing certain elements for the students, like their own gym or separate areas for girls and boys wrestling, but mainly a place to call their own.
The school’s administrators, teachers, and other staff members put in many extra hours over the Christmas break preparing classrooms and making sure the new building was ready to begin classes Monday. Principal Leticia Martinez said it took a team effort to make sure everything was ready on time.
“At some points it looked like things weren’t going to be ready for Monday,” she said.
But things were ready on Monday, Jan. 10, morning for the students and staff to arrive at their new campus and home.
Martinez said it’s great being at the campus, especially knowing everything is ready. She couldn’t believe all the many little things it took to ensure the campus was ready.
“We had all the furniture, but were still getting the textbooks, computers, making sure everything was running, the phone lines, copiers, faxes,” she said.
Martinez said the school could better serve its students and parents now. The buses are no longer late dropping off or picking up students, either.
Martinez explained that the school has a neighborhood concept.
“Our kids are literally just down the street,” she said. “They live right here.”
The students and staff of Juarez-Lincoln have found their new home to be welcoming and inviting.
Reynaldo Leaños Jr., a senior at Juarez-Lincoln, said it was very refreshing to walk into the new facilities.
“It made me want to come back to school after the break,” he said. “I had a more positive feeling about coming back to school.”
Leaños, who is in theater, loves the new Black Box in the Fine Arts Department. He added that his sister likes the dance rooms, as well.
“I have heard nothing but positive remarks about each sector,” he said.
The school has been able to use its new gym for home basketball games. Both Martinez and Leaños noticed the difference at the games now that they are being held on the JLHS campus.
The gym has been filled with parents and students. Martinez said she couldn’t believe how full the parking lot was when she came to one of the recent games.
“Before, you were able to count the people in the stands,” she said. “Now the parents are coming in.”
She is looking forward to performances and seeing what the turn out will be for other games, now that the campus is closer to where the students live.
“Now the kids will have an audience,” Martinez said. “It means a lot when you have an audience.”
Leaños said it’s like the school has a new sense of school pride.
“You can feel it in the air – the positivity. At the game, the players are feeding off of the energy of those there,” he said. “It’s kind of a symbiotic relationship.”
Angela Castilleja, an ELA teacher at Juarez-Lincoln, said it was liberating coming to the new school.
“It’s nice to have our own campus,” she said.
Castilleja said she could tell the kids didn’t know what to expect when walking into school and her classroom on Monday.
“They would first ask me if I liked it before they made their decision,” she said.
Castilleja made sure that her kids still felt welcome in her classroom. Her classroom is set up the same way she had it at the temporary campus.
“They still know when they walk in the room, it is time to work and learn,” she said. “There might be little things they talk about that they are unsure of, but I haven’t changed anything in my classroom…there was no gap in the learning; it’s just a new building. The subject is still the same.”
She had been expecting the worst. She was waiting for negativity, but she didn’t get any from her students.
Martinez and Castilleja both worried there was going to be a gap in learning. There was some difficulty in finding classrooms the first day of class, but some adjustments have been made to help the students locate their classrooms easier.
“Kids are better than us in adjusting to new things, and everything is different,” Martinez said. “They have adapted well, they have been better than us.”
Martinez has big goals for her students and the community. She wants to expand their education goals and help the students and parents achieve more by providing enrichment activities. She wants to provide her students with the necessary tools they need to be prepared for college and other higher education. She also wants to make sure she has the resources to keep her students interested in learning. The district has received a grant recently that will help meet these goals.
But for the students, the biggest and most important thing about their new school is finally having a place to start their own traditions and new memories.
“We can really call it our own, because it is our own,” said Leaños.
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The Progress Times is the hometown newspaper for the local communities of Mission, Sharyland, Alton, Palmview, La Joya and surrounding areas in Western Hidalgo County. We have a staff of veteran reporters who work diligently every week to bring our readers the latest news as it affects their hometown area and people.