At Robinson Elementary School, there is a different kind of excitement — an almost nervous energy — in the air this fall.
Like any other August, teachers have been busy setting up their rooms and excitedly making plans for the school year. But their thoughts are easily drawn back to last August.
Where they were. What they were doing. How they had to abandon their perfectly assembled classrooms just a few days before the start of school and seek shelter from a storm that would end up devastating their classrooms, their school, and their neighboring community.
“People have the normal level of excitement that comes with beginning of the school year. But it’s a strange feeling. It’s a strange place to be in,” Robinson Principal Paige Fernandez-Hohos said. “Our enrollment is still really low. There is a whole hallway of classrooms that we’re not using because a lot of the apartments nearby have not been rebuilt.”
Last fall Robinson Elementary was forced to relocate after the campus was flooded with more than a foot of water during Hurricane Harvey. The school was split between two adjacent campuses, with younger students in spare classrooms at Pleasantville Elementary School and older students across the street at Holland Middle School.
Students and staff returned to their home campus in January 2018, after major repairs and renovations were completed by HISD’s Construction Services. But this Monday they will open a new school year in their home campus — a significant milestone for Fernandez-Hohos.
“We talked a lot this year about picking up where we left off, even using the theme we planned to use in 2017,” she said. “Let’s restart the year we didn’t get to have.”
When the campus was relocated to Pleasantville and Holland, the team quickly switched to a superhero theme accompanied by the “Wherever we are, we are Robinson” tag line. When they returned to their home school in January, the focus was on new beginnings, complete with butterfly imagery.
This year, Fernandez-Hohos said they will return to last year’s planned theme, which is based on children’s book, The Crayon Box that Talked. The theme focuses on a popular quote from the book: “We are a box crayons each one of us unique, but when we get together the picture is complete.”
When students return on Monday, things won’t be exactly the same. Crews continued work on the school over the summer. There is now an updated spark park and a new library, which was renovated a second time after a pipe burst in January.
Though Fernandez-Hohos said she’s thrilled to be back in her own building, she remains incredibly grateful to her colleagues — Pleasantville Elementary School Principal Gwendolyn Hunter and Holland Middle School Principal LaShonda Bilbo-Ervin.
“It’s almost bittersweet to not be starting the year with them,” Fernandez-Hohos said, noting that they still stay in regular contact. “I’m still just so grateful.”