For Mitchell ES family, new school signals renewed hope

For the past three years, Carla Garcia and her 9-year-old daughter Kaitlyn commuted about 25 minutes every morning to get to Mitchell Elementary School, despite living just across the street from the school.

The original Mitchell was damaged beyond repair when Hurricane Harvey hit in 2017, forcing students and staff to move about nine miles away to the former Caldwell Elementary School — their temporary home for the past three years.

With the new and improved Mitchell nearly complete, Garcia and Kaitlyn will once again be able to walk to school in the mornings.

“It was really hard to explain to my daughter what happened, why she had to go to a different school,” Garcia said. “But we managed to get through it. And we’re very excited to see the progress.”

Now a 4th grader, Kaitlyn has been a student at Mitchell since pre-K. The mother-daughter pair made it a habit to ride their bicycles past the construction site every day to keep tabs on what was happening at their beloved school.

Though Garcia hasn’t seen the finished product yet, she has gotten a sneak peek through project renderings and videos.

“I really love the cafeteria and the library. It looks like it’s going to be very neat,” she said. “I think the kids are going to love to read and learn there even more.”

When Harvey hit, Mitchell wasn’t the only building to flood. Much of the surrounding neighborhood — including the Garcia home — also flooded. It was their tight-knit community that gave Garcia hope during that time, she said, noting that her family was thankful to be able to return home within three weeks.

“People from the school were always calling us, checking in on us,” Garcia remembered. “Kaitlyn’s teacher was very good about calling us. She would text her, or even FaceTime her, just to give her encouraging words. She even sent her things through the Post Office.”

As Kaitlyn prepares for a pandemic-delayed start to the 4th grade, Garcia said she knows her daughter will continued to be buoyed by the same community spirit — made even better now by the sight of her new school awaiting her just across the street.