Notes of anticipation and nostalgia mixed during the groundbreaking held on Nov. 19 at Hunters Creek Elementary School. This 1950’s-era elementary school will be the first of nine existing elementaries rebuilt under SBISD’s 2017 Bond plan.
The district has already rebuilt 13 elementary schools under the previous bond. In November 2017, district voters brushed off the impact of Hurricane Harvey, giving the district’s $898.4 million bond initiative an 80 percent approval vote.
Teachers, staff and students at Hunters Creek will move over to SBISD’s South Transition Campus adjacent to Westchester Academy for International Studies soon, and remain there while the new campus is rebuilt on site.
Construction on the new building is set to begin early next year; the new school is scheduled to open in August 2021.
“This groundbreaking represents the creation of something new and important for our community,” Principal Robye Snyder said at the recent bond event.
“As much as we love our vintage building, our students and teachers have outgrown it. This timeworn building, which long ago lost its luster, when rebuilt will serve our children well as they learn skills to be successful in the fast-moving 21st century.”
The new Hunters Creek Elementary is a neighborhood-friendly, two-story design set back on its campus site. Great effort was taken to maximize green space and to preserve trees and playing fields.
The new school’s interior courtyard features secure outdoor areas that will include a town square, teaching theatre, butterfly garden, art and faculty patios, and outdoor dining area.
The Nov. 19 groundbreaking inside the school cafeteria included a welcome from Superintendent Jennifer Blaine, Ed.D., followed by introduction of special guests and two event speakers – Texas Rep. Jim Murphy, Dist. 133, and Hunters Creek Village Mayor Jim Pappas.
All seven SBISD Board of Trustees were in attendance. Other attendees included Mary Grace Landrum, former Trustee, and her husband, the Honorable Michael Landrum. He spoke recently at Landrum Middle School’s groundbreaking event, another district bond-funded project.
Also in attendance were representatives from the school Project Advisory Team (PAT), Pfluger Architects, the district Bond Advisory Committee, as well as many former teachers and current parents and residents.
Board President Pam Goodson noted in her remarks that she had spoken with a former Board president and Hunters Creek parent, Susan Kellner, regarding the groundbreaking. Kellner helped lead the district’s successful 2007 Bond efforts.
The former neighborhood resident, who now resides in California, told Goodson that “all of my kids who went to Hunters Creek remember it as the best time of their lives,” said the current Board president. The Kellners had four children, all now college graduates.
During his remarks, State Rep. Jim Murphy reminded the audience that the Texas Legislature dedicated $11 billion recently to education measures, including added school district funding and property tax reductions.
Bond programs are not state supported, and rely on community and voter-based support and winning bond elections. Murphy said that SBISD’s Board of Trustees and district leadership have local support. “There is not another [school] district that passes school bonds so successfully, or as robustly, as this district, Spring Branch, does,” the state legislator said.
Hunters Creek Village Mayor Jim Pappas, who was a PAT member, highly praised the work of district program leadership, parents and “the moms” on design work that included schematic plans, interior materials and color choices, and approval on designs at each phase of work. “The time and attention given by these moms will be appreciated for years to come,” he said.
A touching personal perspective was given by teachers Marcia Menard and Julie Wilhelm, both fifth-grade teachers who have taught together for five years. Julie Wilhelm was one of Ms. Menard’s own young science students in 2003.
“As we were planning our new building, it made me think about the special parts of this campus that will be missed the most,” Ms. Wilhelm said. While not a good memory on cold days, she said, “My favorite memory of the outdoor hallways was that there was always a flag outside of every classroom celebrating the current season. I also learned as a student that if you left your lunch on the outside hook, that you might be sharing your lunch with one of our friendly HCE squirrels!”
Said Ms. Menard, “It is bittersweet to see the campus as we know it go away, but we need to remember the community is what makes the school – We are Hunters Creek Cougars forever and always!”
Art teacher Maggi Cummings presented a separate time capsule report. Students in all grades compiled art and photo images focusing on their views of the future. School yearbooks, student music and notebooks were gathered for the capsule.
Principal Snyder, who delivered closing remarks, noted that school memories are important. “We love the access to the outdoors, the beautiful trees, the quiet of the neighborhood, and our playground and field. We are all sad to say good-bye to this building. It has served this community well since 1954.”
“Many parents of our current students were also students at Hunters Creek. We all realize that the feeling of the building comes, not from brick and mortar, but from the people inside,” she also said.
Earlier in her remarks, Principal Snyder thanked the Board of Trustees and Dr. Blaine for their vision. “Their direction and leadership brought the district and community together to approve the 2017 Bond that provides, not just Hunters Creek, but all the elementary schools not yet built, the opportunity for new buildings.”
The Hunters Creek event ended with a ceremonial outdoor groundbreaking. The indoor program included a flag ceremony and Pledge of Allegiance by Cub Scout Pack 704, led by Russell Hruska.
The Fourth-Grade Choir also performed What Tomorrow Brings. The choir is led by Director Lorin Mott,