The number of bright yellow school buses on the roads in West Temple early Monday morning was a significant clue that school is back in session for the Belton school district.
Doors opened at 7:10 a.m. Monday at Charter Oak Elementary, Belton ISD’s newest school, and there were a few students and parents waiting at the front doors early.
Inside the lobby, teachers were strategically placed to point children and parents in the right direction. The teachers and staff wore bright green T-shirts with the message “From tiny seeds grow mighty trees” across the front. Most of the students and parents knew exactly where they were heading, an open house at the school had offered the opportunity for families to get a lay of the land before school started.
The reactions of the youngsters showing up at school were varied. Some were thrilled to be there, others a little more apprehensive, holding on to mom or dad’s hand a little tighter.
Most had backpacks; a few students need time to grow into theirs.
“We are so excited to open the doors for our families and the community, we have been planning and prepping for this,” Charter Oaks Elementary School principal Jennifer Conner said. “We’re just excited the kids are finally here so we can begin this journey of learning.”
Elizabeth Webb accompanied her first-grader, Alice, to her class. Andrew, the younger brother, followed close behind. The Webb family walked to school on the first day.
“We’re getting our exercise in for the day,” Elizabeth Webb said.
Alice wasn’t very talkative but did indicate she was excited about starting the first grade.
“Do you remember your teacher’s name,” Webb asked her daughter. They had been practicing it, Ms. (Kelsey) Beall.
Alice knew she was going to the orange hallway, which signified the first grade.
New haircuts were evident in some young boys, crisply parted with a little product holding each hair in place.
A group of siblings arrived on their bikes separately.
“Ride together tomorrow, it’s safer,” Conner told one of the brothers.
Conner held the door open for students and their parents.
“There are my girls,” Conner said as three sisters approached the door with their mother.
Principal of Miller Heights Elementary School since 2011, Conner said a few families at Miller Heights asked to be transferred to Charter Oak, so they could follow her to the new school, which made her feel good.
The first day of school is very exciting, she said.
“There will be some students who are nervous, because the first day of anything can be tough,” Conner said.
Monday is a first day for everyone, she said. It’s a brand new school and a number of different school cultures are being blended here.
Charter Oak Elementary opened with 370 students on Monday and has room to grow to 800 as housing developments in the area grow.
Belton school district had 11,810 students show up for the first day of school, 271 more than last year’s first day of class.
One of the unique aspects of Charter Oak is the flexible learning space in each grade level. Students can work within their classroom or there is a protected area for the student to work on their own and with others.
“It’s a very dynamic area and is synergistic,” Conner said.
Charter Oak Elementary School cost more than $19 million to build.
The school at 8402 Poison Oak Road in Temple — the district’s 11th elementary campus — opened as road improvements are continuing in the area. The school was part of a $149.7 million bond package that voters approved in 2017.
While work continues on expanding Poison Oak from two-lane to four-lane, the anticipated traffic jam on the first day did not materialize.
Conner made the morning announcements, starting off with the Pledge of Allegiance in both English and Spanish, by 7:40 a.m. the new school year had begun.
Temple school district will begin classes on Wednesday.