As Mitchell Elementary School students arrived for the first day of in-person instruction, there were plenty of bright eyes and broad smiles, evident even underneath their masks.
The students entered the new school and looked on in amazement at their new surroundings. Teachers stood nearby reminding them to walk while observing physical distancing.
With their backpacks filled, the students made their way to their classrooms, greeted teachers, and quickly found their seats, ready to begin the school day.
“I am excited to be back here,” third-grader Grant Irving said. “It’s really big and there’s a lot of windows. I think it’s going to be a good year.”
The original Mitchell Elementary School — as well as three others: Scarborough, Kolter, and Braeburn —sustained significant damage from Hurricane Harvey and was later demolished and rebuilt. All four new school opened their doors to students for the first time on Monday.
The new Mitchell spans two stories and 91,300-square-feet and can accommodate about 750 students.
“We are excited to be back in this community, to be able to serve our students and their families,” Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan said as she toured the campus. “This school is the hub of the community. Education is what makes this community strong.”
Interim Principal Tealisha Riley agreed, noting that Mitchell is the “center of the community” — a place where many in the surrounding neighborhood tend to gravitate to when times are tough.
“Many of our families decided to stay with Mitchell instead of transferring to another school,” Riley said. “I think that goes to show how important Mitchell is to the community and the neighborhood. I think that’s going to be really powerful when it comes to the students and their motivation to do well.”
As students made their way through the new building in search of their classrooms, they passed rows of shelves filled with books and cozy reading nooks throughout the first floor. For Riley, that is a highlight of the project.
“The library is sort of spread all throughout campus,” Riley said, as she pointed out the nooks. “It’s nice to see that, everywhere you go, there are books. This is a print-rich campus. The kids get to see books everywhere they go.”
For students and their families, it was a welcome return to the neighborhood after three years at a temporary campus several miles away.
“Thinking about how Harvey affected this neighborhood, they all decided to stay with Mitchell instead of transferring to another school,” Riley said. “I think that goes to show how important Mitchell is to the community and the neighborhood that it’s in. It’s powerful to see.”