By Amanda Kim Stairrett

Killeen Daily Herald

FORT HOOD – It was the start of a new school year at the new Meadows Elementary and new students with their new backpacks filed past their new principal who ...


At 7:09 a.m., an offensive wail that would put a banshee to shame pierced the bustling hallways. Kids cringed and held their hands over their ears. Patti Vickers, a principal's secretary, rushed from helping a line of parents to a panel on the wall and shut off the screaming fire alarm.

"Yep, it's the first day of school," she said with a laugh.


The fire alarm didn't obey, though, and continued to annoy anyone within earshot – which was pretty much everyone within the confines of Meadows. Vickers continued futile efforts to bring peace to the school as she joked, "Well, somebody doesn't want to come to school today!"

Aside from insolent fire alarms, the first day of school at Meadows Elementary, the Killeen Independent School District's only new facility this year, started without a hitch. The new building was re-dedicated Sunday, just next door to the building that was home to Meadows students for 54 years.

The school was named in honor of Lt. Col. Benjamin Earl Meadows, an engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers who designed the early structure of Fort Hood. He also served on the Fort Hood Independent School District board before it merged with Killeen's.

Carol McKissick taught at the old building for 18 years. She is excited about the new building because "they've given us the best of everything," she said Monday as her fourth-grade students filed into the classroom. Everything is new, from the computers to the maps.

"Everything is new and fresh and the kids deserved that," McKissick said.

Though the school can now boast two fully-stocked science labs, wireless Internet throughout the building and what principal Karol Carlisle called two "fabulous" computer labs, something that impressed 9-year-old Grant Hutton and "10 on Sept. 18" Joey Galvan was that their new school had two levels. That's right – two floors and even an elevator Galvan pointed out.

Hutton, the son of Lt. Col. James and Karen Hutton, has spent the summer reading, playing video games and riding his bike. He said he was looking forward to being in Mrs. McKissick's class because he heard she is big on reading.

Galvan, the son of Maj. Jose and Sandy Galvan, likes computers and can't wait to use the new iMacs in the corner of the classroom "for playing lots of cool games." Galvan also likes math ... and gym ... and recess ... and lunch, he said excitedly.

His parents brought him to school that morning and he had to get up at 5 a.m. to travel from Harker Heights.

Soldiers got a day off from physical training Monday morning so parents could accompany their children to school. Soldiers in action combat uniforms passed through the halls alongside Hello Kitty and Spider-man backpacks. Mom toted video cameras and little brothers and sisters who grudgingly came along.

Downstairs, Cristelita Fuertes taught her first-graders the "Firecracker Clap."

"Clap. Psh! Clap. Psh! Clap. Psh! Clap. Psh! BOOM," went 15 pairs of little hands.

Fuertes then led the class in counting to 100 by twos.

"Two, four, six, eight ... 100," called out 15 little voices.

"Did I ever tell you (that) you were in the smartest class in all of first grade," Fuertes asked the students.

During the week, Meadows Elementary is home to about 760 students from pre-kindergarten to fifth grade, Carlisle said. This is her first year as principal. She served as Meadows' assistant principal last year, which was preceded by 20 years of teaching in the Troy Independent School District, two years serving at the Education Service Center Region 12 in Waco, three years as an instructor in the Killeen district and five years as an assistant principal.

Carlisle said her goal is 100 percent success for all students.

"I want this to be a dynamic, educational environment," she said.

She even offered some insight as to why some of the students were so excited about their new, two-story building: "For some reason students just love stairs!"

Check in at the end of the year and see if they still like them, she joked.

Contact Amanda Kim Stairrett at or call (254) 501-7547

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