By Hayley Kappes
Killeen Daily Herald
SALADO – Aug. 25 wasn't just the first day of school for Salado High students.
It was the first day they passed through the doors of their brand new building; more than halfway into the school year, students, faculty and staff of the village's only public high school are beginning to feel at home.
The new facility is on Farm-to-Market 2484 and serves about 450 students.
Salado Independent School District officials restructured every school because of the move, and the old high school was turned into the village's junior high.
Principal Kay Matthews has been in Salado for 13 years as an administrator and in education close to 30 years.
"They make my day," Matthews said of the high school's students.
They are feeling some growing pains and they're trying to accommodate for the new growth Salado is experiencing.
"We're trying to learn creative ways and make sure we still reach all the kids and know them all," Matthews said. "We don't want to lose that touch, even if we are growing."
She said every graduating class increases by about 20 students every year.
The school doesn't have any lockers. It purchased classroom sets of textbooks, and every student has a copy at home.
Matthews said this stops wear and tear on books, prevents students from bringing illicit materials to school and alleviates congestion in the hallways.
Teachers are enjoying the new facility.
J.J. Jonas, theater director, moved to Salado six years ago so her daughter would be able to attend the high school.
Jonas said Salado's reputation and success in University Interscholastic League programs made it stand out from other 2A schools in the state.
Salado didn't disappoint.
Before the new school opened, the theater department used a stage in the middle school's cafeteria that didn't have wings or a curtain.
"Using a stage that small is like asking the football team to practice on a tennis court," Jonas said.
Jonas is now teaching more technical theater courses where students learn set design and lighting.
"The students are excited about the advancements because they grew up in a high-tech world," she said. "Now we're starting to meet their expectations."
The school built two gyms to accommodate their six basketball teams, and intend to construct a track, and football, baseball and softball fields.
Until then, those athletes are being bused to the old high school for games and practices.
Jeff Cheatham, athletic director and head football coach, said there is not a concrete date for when athletic field construction will begin, but it will be soon.
"We've had to make some changes as far as what and when we do things. It's not easy," Cheatham said. "We're going to have some great facilities here, and the kids have done a great job being able to adapt moving back and forth."
Contact Hayley Kappes at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7559.