When Eustace ISD completed construction of the new high school, middle school students were given the renovated old high school to learn and grow. Dr Coy Holcombe, Director Michael Rowland and staff have worked hard to create a space to thrive. Originally built in the 1980s, the building has entered a new era.
Upon entering the new and improved Eustace Middle School, the first thing you see is the “pit”. This popular hangout and site for generations of high school mischief is now a sleek living room with new floors, tables, and chairs. The new design provides a place to socialize, read or study.
The library is the second thing you see when entering the building. It has been completely renovated – the walls have been opened up, it has been painted, with new flooring and lighting and the desks have been replaced, to name just a few of the changes.
“It’s been completely redone, except for the permanent libraries,” Holcombe said. “Some former students saw it for the first time and it blew them away.
Ceramic tile has been upgraded to a wood-look commercial flooring that is easy to maintain and can handle traffic. Anyone who remembers the brown paneling and brickwork will be shocked to find light colors painted everywhere. Lockers have also been removed, creating more space for the over 300 students in the three hallways. Hallways offer a huge improvement in aesthetics, but also in function. It was an adjustment going from one to three lanes for students, but the flow during switch times is now much more efficient.
“They’ve always only been in one lane and they were a little overwhelmed at first, but now they love it,” Rowland said.
The art room has been enlarged. Owith a torn wall, this now Houses tables, cabinets and other features adding substantial space and enhanced function.
Science Labs have also received an update. The teacher has both a classroom space for teaching and a separate laboratory space. Cabinets, lab tables, sinks, venting and rinsing stations are also part of the design.
All classrooms feature a Promethean Board, a giant TV-like computer that can be used as a blackboard, split-screen with any computer or media player. It’s the modern-day blackboard and teachers are fully embracing the technology as they become familiar with its expanded capabilities.
Each class also has a Chromebook station with a set of 30 Chromebooks, which is enough for each student. They use them in their daily classrooms, but they can also be consulted when needed. This helps students in quarantine or those who are away for long periods of time due to illness. EISD uses a program to help students access textbooks, homework, and a parent portal from a phone, personal computer, or other device.
The tech classroom features a green screen for teachers to create project videos for their classrooms.
The expansion of the school made it possible to hire more staff and reduce the student-teacher ratio.
“We’ve been able to add three teachers, the number of classes is lower, and our hallways and transitions are so much better, there’s a lot more space,” Rowland said.
The robotics department, which recently won regionals and is heading statewide, has a competition-grade mat, 3D printers, robotics kit computers and more. Students are free to create whatever they can imagine. Eustace has five teams that will declare themselves in robotics.
There are now three computer labs and basic classroomsing collaborationnot offices that can be separate or form a cluster for group studies and open space.
The music room has been renovated, providing a huge but necessary increase in space over the middle school music room. With approximately 200 students in the program, the change has been an exciting feature for many students.
Agriculture students now have a greenhouse and a popular classroom teaching outdoor education and sports such as hunter and boater education and certifications, marksmanship and firearms safety, how build a survival structure and more. There are 3D and paper targets used by over 60 students at a time in the competition level training field for archers.
“Coach Carpenter runs this program and he does a great job, the kids love it,” Rowland said.
The auditorium seats 400 people, providing an excellent platform for theater and orchestral students to perform and practice.
A college weight room will be set up in one of the other farm buildings, along with a covered outdoor exercise area for workouts in inclement weather.
Covered walkways connect the spaces and the old laptops have disappeared.
One of the biggest transformations happened in the cafeteria. Gone are the brown walls, split-level floors and long tables. Brightly painted walls, new tables and improved food offerings have replaced them. The old leaky windows were also new and replaced to correct a flaw in the building’s original installation.
The cafeteria hallway near the old gym was upgraded with a light-colored paint job and a heating and cooling unit, bringing climate control to the space for the first time.
“They didn’t get a gift, they got something new and that’s how we wanted them to feel,” Holcombe said.
Other works are still in progress, including the installation of LED lighting. They have already upgraded the clocks, public address system and fire alarms.
Teachers and their families have created a cozy quiet room out of the old home economics room. Staff are still working on various other projects in the building, but major works have been completed.
Holcombe recognized Rowland, his staff, their families and many other volunteers who helped make this happen for the college.
“He’s one of the main reasons why we did everything. He and his team contributed to its realization”, he noted.
Holcombe is about to retire in the spring and his efforts to create a beautiful and functional space for students to learn, be inspired and achieve their goals is a legacy he leaves to the next superintendent on whom lean.
Holcombe and the staff wanted to create a space where students were not restricted and could achieve their goals. EISD students now have the support, technology and opportunities within the district to help make these goals a reality.