Future Charter Oak students are in awe — of the classrooms, the design, the spacious library, the deep fryer where thousands of chicken nuggets will be born, the bathrooms, the playground, the water fountains, and just about every other detail of Belton Independent School District’s newest elementary school.
Charter Oak Elementary will open in the fall. A group of the school’s first students were bused over from Pirtle Elementary to join community leaders in a sneak peak tour of the campus Tuesday. Thursday evening, they will have an opportunity to visit again, this time with their parents.
Superintendent Susan Kincannon led the tour, stopping briefly to talk to the students about the features of the new school.
“Charter Oak Elementary (is) named after a tree called the Charter Oak Tree,” she said. “It is the (location) of the first election in the county. So there’s going to be a big tree on this wall here — where that’s not quite finished in the entryway.”
The tour rocketed through the building at 9-year-old speed.
“This is bigger than the one at Pirtle!” Shawn Hicks shouted about the school nurse’s office. “It’s so cool!”
Shawn, age 9, liked the whole campus. He is in third grade.
“I think it’s really pretty and it’s really creative and has a lot of color to it and it’s not just blank, and — (has) bigger places,” Shawn said.
The students bolted in and out of classrooms, pausing to bounce on chairs and stools designed to be kid-friendly.
“I think that the layout and everything is really nice,” Matthias Hansen said. “I think that the designer should get lots of credit for this, and that the students will enjoy going to Charter Oak this next year.”
Matthias, 9, is in fourth grade.
Part of the new school’s design team was on the tour. Kincannon encouraged the students to ask questions of architect Jarrod Sterzinger and designer Jayna Duke.
“How did y’all do the lights?” Analicia Diaz asked. “The different shapes and — when you walk right in, there’s different shapes of lights.”
Duke said the irregular designs are all part of a plan.
“We wanted it to look really playful and fun for you guys,” she said. “We wanted you to look at it and say ‘it looks like —’and then each of you would see something different, kind of like when you look at clouds.”
“I like it,” Analicia, age 10, said.
Analicia is a fourth grader. She said she likes the new campus, and found it interesting to learn about how a new school is designed and built.
“The colors are really nice, the lights are really nice,” she said. “The classrooms are really different.”
Kincannon stopped in one classroom to explain how the school board has drawn up new attendance boundaries, and how Charter Oak will have a small student body to leave room for the even more students moving into new housing in the area.
The students had a question — about the cubby holes that lined the classroom walls.
“Your backpacks should go in your cubbies — we have cubbies in every classroom,” Kincannon said.
“We have cubbies? I haven’t had those since kindergarten,” one boy shouted out.
The students were excited about the brightly lit new gym, the cafeteria, and the new playground — which will serve as a prototype for redesigned playgrounds at all of Belton ISD’s elementaries, not just the new campuses. The playground features an innovative cushioned surface for kids to fall on safely, and has features to allow special needs students to access the equipment.
“What are you most excited about?” Kincannon asked the group.