BELTON — This is a season of anticipation for Belton Middle School Principal Joe Brown, as the school focuses on academics as usual, but also looks ahead to its closing in June and a new school opening in August.
Brown is in his fifth year as the BMS principal, and was named the principal of the new North Belton Middle School, now under construction in the vicinity of Prairie View Road and Westfield Road, not far from Tarver Elementary.
BMS will become part of the high school next year, so the students in grades six through eight who would have attended the school will attend either North Belton, Lake Belton or South Belton middle schools.
A map of the new campus sits on Brown’s desk.
“We’ve been looking ahead to the size of classrooms and the best locations for teams of teachers,” Brown said. “We’re also concentrating on the other tasks at hand, focusing on academic excellence and testing, but there’s also time devoted to looking ahead to the next school year, too.”
Fortunately, Brown said, the transition was made easier by the fact that the majority of staff members — those not retiring or leaving — will be moving to North Belton for that school’s opening.
Brown has worked for Belton Independent School District since 1997, when he worked as a coach, assistant athletic director and teacher at Belton High School.
While it’s a time of transition for the Belton Middle School staff, Brown said the top concern is taking care of the campus’ students.
“There are still a lot of unknowns (related to the move), and I worry about everything that needs to be done,” he said. “But our main focus needs to be making sure the students have the best spring semester they can have. That’s our big priority.” Belton Middle School has about 740 students, and the capacity of North Belton is 960 students.
Anywhere between 720 and 850 students are expected at North Belton for opening day, depending on how the middle school attendance boundaries are zoned and the number of transfer students.
“That’s a really important factor,” Brown said. “The number of students we will have next year will determine our staffing needs.”
Assistant principals Chrystal Vriseno and Phil Johanson are helping to guide the move. Vriseno has been at Belton Middle School for seven years, and said one of the things she’ll miss most about working on that campus is how close the school is to her house.
“Even when you’re excited about moving to a new place, there are good memories and good feelings about the old place,” she said.
A spacious building is one of the things Vriseno said she’s most looking forward to. “The room — the size — is wonderful,” she said. “It’s so much more kid-friendly, it will be fabulous.”
Johanson is in his fourth year at Belton Middle School, and is Brown’s point person in working with the teachers to determine the best use of classroom space.
“We’re trying to solve problems before they even happen,” he said, adding the amenities of North Belton Middle School have him excited. “Knowing that the school is specifically designed for middle school students and for each of them to have an iPad is fantastic.”