The anticipation built as they knew they would be first – the first of many to walk through the halls of the school finished just in time for the start of the new year.
Many of the parents brought their youngsters with them for the celebration and to meet their teachers for the new year.
Later that afternoon, fourth-grader Carly Haggard looked a little nervous but managed a smile as she talked with Sam Castañeda. He spoke fast but with a reassuring tone.
“I am going to teach her writing, the mechanics of writing and the English aspects. Then you are going to learn science with me and history with me. Then you are going to switch to a math and then your reading teacher.
“That switching is going to happen for the first time for you.”
School wouldn’t start until Monday, as it did for the other districts in Bee County. But Friday was their chance to meet their teachers in advance and drop off their school supplies.
Carly was just one of those students who had been watching the grand opening ceremonies earlier that Friday afternoon.
“Those little bundles of voices wanting to get to those classrooms — we missed that,” Superintendent Dr. Brett Belmarez said as he stood before the crowd of a few hundred for the grand opening and ribbon cutting.
“We missed that this summer. That is a welcome noise.
“That is what makes our jobs worthwhile.”
Months of work became a reality as the district staff would finally have the new elementary they had for so long been wanting.
“We only do this, building a new campus, once every 60 years,” Belmarez said. “Thank you to everybody who was a part of it.”
Belmarez called a list of names of everyone from board members to teachers and committee members — thanking each for their work to get the new building built.
“There were three people... who really drove my thinking as we were going through this thing,” he said. “Former board member, Commissioner Mr. Ken Haggard — he would always say, ‘Where are we on this?’
“He kept that constant push to move this thing along and get it done knowing criticism was on the way.
“Mr. Danny Gonzales - I remember him slapping his hands on the table saying, ‘We have to move forward.’
“Former Lady Cat and dear to all of our hearts and another person who kept the drive going was Mrs. Patty Holubec.
“She would tell (Elementary Principal Emilia Dominguez) and me in staff meetings that even though we knew the high school needed it more but the money wasn’t there for a high school... go for this one.
“Do this for our school district community.”
Holubec retired last year as high school principal.
Construction of the elementary school began just a year ago on property purchased behind the current school.
Months before that, voters approved the $6.8 million in bonds to pay for the construction of the new school.
Belmarez acknowledged that the road to get the new school approved and built wasn’t always easy.
“Progress always comes with a little bit of criticism and people with different ideas,” he said. “That is how democracy works, and we welcome that.
“This building and this project... it represents everything good that can happen not only in Skidmore-Tynan ISD but in the world.”
Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.