New schools open to praise

It was equal parts grand opening and victory lap.Big Spring Independent School District officials held ribbon cutting ceremonies Tuesday at the four new elementary campuses, a series of events which turned into a rolling celebration of a years-long process to make the new schools a reality.Large crowds greeted officials at each school, and by the time the caravan reached its final stop, Marcy Elementary, the mood had turned quite celebratory.“I can't express enough … how much pride I have in my heart that I'm a member of this community,” BSISD Superintendent Steven Saldivar said prior to a public tour of Marcy. “The community did this for us. They rallied around us and had the foresight to pass the ($60 million) bond — and they did it for the kids in this community.”Marcy, like her three sister campuses, is a 75,000 square-foot building which holds 27 classrooms, a gymnasium, library, combination cafeteria/auditorium and a veritable boatload of technology.Needless to say, educators are quite proud of their new schools.“This is awesome — that's the word that keeps coming to mind,” Marcy Principal Rita Faulkner said. “We have a wonderful campus that kids are going to love. And if the kids love coming to school, they're going to learn.”Alvina Arguello, a long-time physical education aide at Marcy, was more than happy to show off the school's gymnasium, which she said is light years ahead of the previous facility.“I love it,” Arguello said. “When I came in (the new gym) for the first time, I just cried — I couldn't help it. I never had an office before. In the past, when the weather was bad, we had to have P.E. In a little corner of the music room, but most of the time, the kids were outside. Now, they'll still be outside some, but there will be a lot of things we can do with this.”Lee Lewis, head of the construction firm which built the four campuses, credited the partnership forged between his company, Parkhill, Smith and Cooper architects and the school district with allowing the buildings to be constructed within a 14-month time frame.“This was an extremely compressed schedule,” Lewis said. “To build four of these this fast in the same community, while you're fighting the oil field to find qualified workers … is probably the most difficult job we've ever done.“We couldn't have done it without the architects and the school district working with us,” he added. “It's been a true team effort, one of the best I've ever seen.”The schools, part of a $60 million construction project effecting practically every BSISD campus, will officially open when the new school year begins Aug. 27.