Luckily the students and parents at Bridge City Elementary School have gotten a preview look at the new building. Otherwise, the school would have a huge pedestrian traffic backup on Monday, the first day of school. The inside is stop-and-stare gorgeous.

"Look how awesome your school is," a mother told her children Thursday morning as they walked the main hall lined with colorful painted murals on the walls.

The entry to the main hall gives a preview of what is in store. Above the double doors is an arch made of three-dimensional figures of cars and boats, with a cardinal mascot named "Little Red" in the middle. "Your Journey Begins Here."

"It's almost like Disney here in Bridge City," said Principal Kelly McBride. The Disney connection is for-real. The interior designer has done work for Disney.

The glassed-in library is the focal point inside. Besides having the traditional shelves of books, the library has a bright red and black old-fashioned train. A three-dimensional cardinal with a train engineer's cap is hanging out the locomotive engine's window, waving a wing. The cars are open with long pads to give young readers a fun place to relax with a book.

Parent Rhonda Proctor was there with her 5-year-old son, Kolton, who will start kindergarten. "I think it's really inviting when (the kids) walk in the door. It captivates their attention," she said.

In the middle of the library is a puppet stage designed to look like an old-fashioned one-room school with a clock tower. Square wooden stools are gathered around the puppet stage.

That model of a school is the only thing resembling old-fashioned in a school that is not only colorful, but full of modern technologies. Each classroom has a 'smart board,' a dry-erase style board that is connected to a computer. The boards can do things never imagined by teachers who once had to use chalk for lessons.

In addition, teachers have microphones that will hook around their necks. Each classroom has a sound system with speakers in the middle. Kids will have no more excuses that they can't hear in the back.

Teacher Vickie Brown is also amazed by the new school. She's been a teacher for 27 years and can remember a time when they had to use an old ditto machine to copy tests for students. If you had purple fingers, everyone knew you had been at the ditto machine with its ink.

But she also points out that the high-tech and colorful school is something the young students deserve. For three years, elementary students in Bridge City have had to meet in portable classrooms because Hurricane Ike in September 2008 flooded the district's two elementary schools.

“The little ones going into the third grade haven’t been a real school,” said Stephanie Harvey, a paraprofessional.

The new elementary is on the same site as the old Roy Hatton Elementary, which was more than 50 years old when it was demolished after Ike. The storm surge also ruined the E.E. Sims Elementary that was built in the 1960s. The two schools are memorialized with the names on the entry way design.

Brown has a special connection to the new school site. She and her husband, along with her son, attended Hatton Elementary.

The ‘awesome’ school is a kind of reward for the suffering the Bridge City school district went through in the months after Ike. The district was able to build the school without a bond issue or tax increase through using insurance money, along with FEMA and other government hurricane recovery grants.

 
 
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