Most of the 44 presidents in the history of the United States appeared Thursday morning for the official dedication of John F. Kennedy Elementary School, even if they were only student portrayals of the chief executives.
Students performed skits and gave even shorter speeches about the importance of education, public service and the historical biographies of a few of the former presidents, including a longer production involving students portraying the school’s namesake and his family.
Throughout the speeches by various HISD staff and community members, nearly all of them spoke of the dedication of Kennedy’s staff and administrators in educating children.
The stage performances were done with accompaniment by the Waltrip High School band.
Students from Kennedy Elementary’s fledgling band program sat and performed with their elders, a point that wasn’t lost on Sam Sarabia, HISD’s chief elementary schools’ officer.
Sarabia said that as he sat earlier watching the band perform, he could see Kennedy’s students absorbing the moment, watching how they played with passion. He implored the older students to recognize and accept their role as models for those who come after them, as parents and community members had done before for them.
The school, which officially opened after winter break earlier this year, serves about 750 students. And the school serves them well, as evidenced by the multiple years of exemplary and recognized status marked on the first wall to greet visitors driving to the school.
The two-story building is a combination of the former Kennedy and Allen elementaries built with approximately $17.2 million approved by voters in the 2007 bond program.
“Where we came from, the building was 48 years old, we had rain falling on us, we had possums in the building some mornings, and now we walk on terrazzo floors… the (air conditioning) works,” said Kennedy Elementary principal Daryl Sherman. “And everyone has technology to use for instruction. I think every child in HISD deserves that.”
The library and media center serve as the hub of the school, drawing students and visitors to its circular center and serving as a catalyst for children to read early and often.
“I’ve not had one tour where people weren’t wowed,” Sherman said. “When we were planning the building, we wanted to do something special. We have the library as the focus of the school. Reading is in everything we do. We know that when students are successful readers, then they’re successful throughout their life.”
The new Kennedy Elementary was built in such a way that it’s expected to require about 20 percent less energy to operate. Nearly every classroom, including special rooms for art, music and computer instruction, has clear views into the rooms for observation as well as windows for natural light and views to the outside.