Kolter Elementary School Principal Julianne Dickinson began to feel the weight of Monday morning before the sun went down the day before.
For Dickinson, Monday was different for a few reasons — the start of in-person instruction, the return of students to classrooms after eight months, and the required use of masks due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But the most special reason was that it was her students’ first day in their newly constructed school.
“It’s the official end of our Harvey chapter and it feels good,” Dickinson said. “It feels like we’re crossing the finish line today. The goal has always been that the kids are in the building.”
On Monday morning, Kolter students eagerly shuffled past the entrance of the building adorned with balloon arches in the school’s colors. Colorful dots that corresponded with color-coded wristbands guided students to the areas designated for their grade levels.
The foreign language magnet is one of four HISD elementary schools being rebuilt after sustaining significant damage from Hurricane Harvey. The previous building was demolished in 2018, with site work and construction beginning soon after.
The two-story 91,300-square-foot-building will accommodate about 750 students and feature open, brightly colored spaces, abundant natural light, and extended learning spaces throughout the building for student collaboration.
“I feel really glad and happy that I finally get to come back,” third-grader Coralyn Cooper said. “It’s a big change, but it’s a good change.”
It wasn’t just students who were excited. Kolter teachers also were feeling the first-day energy.
“It’s so inviting and so warm. You can’t help but want to be here,” said third grade teacher Sharon Grimm, who also lost her home in Hurricane Harvey. “We’ve got a beautiful new space. We’re going to keep the kids learning, and we’re going to keep them safe.”
Dickinson said coming back during a pandemic will be an adjustment, but she won’t let it overshadow the triumph the school feels about returning home. Her sentiments seem to be shared by neighbors living near school.
Written on posters on display at the house directly across the street from the school entrance were a few words of welcome and encouragement: “Hey Kolter Cougars! Have a great Cougar day!”
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