Lights turned on and off without the flick of a switch as principal Lesley Rhodes walked through one of the two state of the art science labs at her brand new school.
Rhodes proudly encouraged students' polite behavior as they looked around in wonderment at the tile walls and modern look of the new James and Barbara Adams Elementary School on Monday.
About 700 students filled classrooms for the first day of school at the two-story building, which is the first of its kind in Arlington.
Prekindergarten through sixth graders walked the halls of the 111,000 square-foot building with 44 classrooms in silence with their hands clasped behind their backs.
First grade teacher Tamara Gaffney laughed when she spoke of the serious kids. She said once the newbies start to get a little comfortable they stop acting like little soldiers.
Gaffney transferred to Adams Elementary from Atherton Elementary this year. Atherton was one of three east Arlington schools that resulted in the building of the new 900-capacity Adams elementary worth $22 million after a 2009 bond package was approved.
Gaffney said Monday was the first time since she has taught in the district that her classroom has been under maximum capacity for the first day of class. A welcoming relief that's helping her sprout new ideas such as what the students can plant in the on-campus flower beds.
Diana Valenzuela dropped her fourth grade son Christian off at school and remarked he is lucky to transfer from Atherton Elementary. Her older son was one of the students who had to classroom in a portable at Atherton due to overcrowding.
Little Christian said he is excited to walk up the stairs at his "fancy" new school.
Big building, big ideas
The school features three outside classrooms where maps of Texas, the United States and the World are painted on sidewalks to teach students about geography.
Every classroom is equipped with a smart board, and collaboration areas with miniature couches and seats with built-in charging stations will enable students to charge their iPads and other devices while lounging in social areas.
Arlington ISD is a bring your own technology (BYOT) district that enables children to use devices for educational purposes, Rhodes said.
Bathrooms feature hand washing stations and water fountains on the outside instead of inside so teachers can keep an eye on students, the principal said.
A physical education teacher used her smart board in the library to go over rules with first graders and talk about keeping the new sports equipment fresh and in good shape.
Children cheered each time the teacher spoke of the new basketball court and amenities.
Large library windows provide a view for two playgrounds divided by a wooden bridge for younger and older students. More importantly the windows provide a view to Sam Houston High School, Rhodes said.
Rhodes said this is so students will have high school on the brain.
"I wanted to make it real for them," Rhodes said.
Superintendent stops by
Adams is one of nine schools Superintendent Marcelo Cavazos visited while posting live tweets containing photos of teachers and new courses, including a career, technical and higher education investigations course for eighth-graders.
UT Arlington president Vistasp Karbhari and Bill Coppola, president of Tarrant County College’s southeast campus joined Cavazos during stops.
Cavazos is collaborating with Coppola for an Early College High School campus at TCC to open fall 2014, and with Karbhari for early admission to UT Arlington for high school juniors.
Monica S. Nagy