A bit tired, but ready to get back to friends and learning, students across Killeen ISD returned to school Tuesday, the first day of classes in the new year and in the spring semester.
“Welcome back,” was the continuously repeated phrase administrators sounded out at East Ward Elementary School in downtown Killeenas students walked through the main hallway beneath a sign proclaiming the new year.
Fifth-grade teacher Gerri Williams greeted her returning students, invited them to share details of their two-week holiday and then began reviewing words of encouragement and classroom expectations, consequences and rewards.
At East Ward, the 66-year-old building on Rancier Avenue, the first day back was also the start of the longtime school’s final semester in its familiar structure.
Next school year, the school’s 467 students and 80 staff members will relocate to the district’s new Maude Moore Wood Elementary School, where they will stay until completion of a larger, updated school back at the downtown location.
It will be a busy, fast and exciting next few months, Principal Norma Baker said Tuesday just before walking through the school to check on teachers beginning the day’s lessons.
“Our main focus is to teach and learn,” the principal said, “but we’re also beginning the process of packing up.”
The school’s staff members discussed the process of “decluttering” classrooms to begin the process of cleaning up to relocate.
“We are excited for the transition,” Baker said. “The excitement is increasing about going to a new campus.”
She said it’s important to continue the school’s tradition of community support, inviting guests in to help with events and maintaining a family closeness. “We have wonderful learning experiences and we’re excited about a great move.”
A closing ceremony for East Ward Elementary School is scheduled May 2.
In the meantime, it’s learning as usual. The fifth-grade classes took part in a “word of the year” activity and team building exercises.
Each student chose a personal word of the year from a list of words such as dream, cultivate, forgiveness, grace, friendship, gratitude, hope, integrity, joy, love and kind. They defined the words and found quotations to describe the concepts.
Students also reviewed a series of posters showing words of encouragement — perseverance, courage, accountability and perception. That list, which they worked on last semester, included quotations and examples of “famous failures” who overcame obstacles to succeed.
Talking about perception and holding up a half-full (or half-empty) glass of water, Williams reminded her students there is always a solution to any problem and the importance of how one views a given situation.
Fifth-grader Alfonso Valle likely summed up most of the 45,000 KISD students’ thoughts as they returned to school. “It’s fun being at school,” he said, “but I also like the time with family.”
He was also considering the implications of wrapping up his time at East Ward and preparing to enter middle school in a few months. He has attended the same elementary school since third grade.
“It’s my last year at East Ward. I think I’m moving to Manor Middle School (in Killeen),” he said. “I’m happy to go to Manor because I have two cousins there. I do like going to school here.”
The fifth-grader chose the word integrity in the word of the year activity. “It’s about doing the right thing even when no one is watching,” he said. The young man explained that he is the oldest of five children and has to take responsibility as many small eyes are watching him.
Students in Copperas Cove, Belton, Salado and Florence also returned Tuesday. Lampasas ISD and Gatesville ISD returned Monday.