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Community leaders get first look at new schools

ERICA RODRIGUEZ

By ERICA RODRIGUEZ
July 21, 2010 at 2:21 a.m.
Updated July 22, 2010 at 2:22 a.m.

Willie Pickens from Destiny Consulting in Houston walks across the Victoria East High School gym.r for the Victoria Education Foundation.

Willie Pickens from Destiny Consulting in Houston walks across the Victoria East High School gym.r for the Victoria Education Foundation.

Business leaders and school vendors took a first glimpse inside two new Victoria schools Wednesday afternoon.

About 20 members of the Victoria Education Foundation and vendors toured Cade Middle School and Victoria East High School.

Victoria West High School was not included in the tour because of time constraints.

"This is a specialized group of individuals, these VISD vendors, that helps do things for the district," said Brittany Hollas, executive director of the foundation.

Vendors from the food, construction, insurance and other industries were represented from the area and across the state.

The tour began at Cade Middle School, where cardboard boxes full of supplies filled many classrooms.

"One thing that you'll notice about our campus is that it's very spacious, very well thought out," said principal Lisa Blundell as she escorted the group.

The campus, along with Victoria West High School, costs about $62 million and is being built by Krueger Construction.

The campus will house about 760 students and 78 staff members. The building is divided into two sections with fine arts, athletics and the cafeteria facilities on one side and academic classes on the other. The academic wing is divided by grade level. Assistant principals' offices overlook the cafeteria to keep an eye on students.

Teachers will be allowed to move into their classrooms Wednesday.

Many are excited to settle in the new building.

"They've been ready to come back since May," she said. "So I've had to hold them back."

Victoria East High School was still dusty from crews working on final projects. Boxes of printers and document cameras were stacked in the entryway.

"Right now, really a lot of it is just down to the finishing touches," East principal Greg Crockett said.

The three-story building will house 1,800 students and 180 staff members.

The school layout is much the same as the middle school, with fine arts programs, athletics and the cafeteria on one side and three stories of academic classes on the other.

The school costs about $42 million. It, along with Cade Middle School and Victoria West High School, will be open in August for classes.

Two floors with classrooms in the academic wing will each be staffed with two assistant principals and two counselors. Their offices will surround the student restrooms on each floor.

"That's intentional," Crockett said, to help keep an eye on students.

Visitors ogled and gasped when they entered the auditorium.

"It's hard to believe the changes," said Judy Clegg, a foundation member with Clegg Services. "It makes me want to go back to school. It makes me want to go back and teach again."

The auditorium seats 500 and Crockett said he believes the new fine arts facilities will improve student productions. He said the district plans to hold a districtwide musical every two years, involving students from both high schools.

Teachers are expected to be able move into the 92 classrooms Aug. 9, said Dan Bokulich, director of maintenance. No move-in date has been set yet for Victoria West High School, he said.

The West school is taking longer to construct because the contractor is working on two buildings, said Diane Boyett, the Victoria school district's communications director.

"It just didn't get finished as quickly as the other school," she said.

Boyett emphasized the building will be complete in time for classes.

"Structurally it is virtually complete," she said. "It's the finishing work that's not finished."

Crockett believes the best thing about opening the new school is the excitement it's generated.

"Every person who I've talked to in the community is excited for our district," he said.

Darrell Serrano, with Serrano Services Inc., who will have three children attending the East High School, was impressed by the building.

"I'm kind of jealous that the kids have got such a new school. It kind of makes you want to go back to school because it's so nice," he said. "It's just mind-blowing."

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