School bells ring Monday

Construction 'down to the wire' at new Rockdale ISD facilities
By MIKE BROWN Reporter Editor

When consultants termed the opening of classes Monday at the new Rockdale High School a "photo finish" with the end of construction they weren't kidding.

Consultant J.P. Grom this week said the new ceramic tiles under the high school's 42-foot cupola will be cured and ready for use Monday morning.

That's when classes begin for an estimated 515 RHS students who will begin using their expanded, mostly new 149,600-foot campus for the first time.

'Business as usual'

Biggest change in the RISD, of course, is the high school expansion/ renovation and the new 73,635- square foot intermediate school, for grades 3-5, off US 79 at the western city limits.

A delay in steel delivery, triggered by Hurricane Ike last fall, caused a delay in the RHS project but contractor Collier Construction has delivered on its promise to have RHS ready for classes to begin Monday, Grom said.

It's a frantic final week. Grom said. High school teachers should be able to occupy their classrooms on Friday.

"We expect business as usual on Monday morning," Grom said.

Some landscaping work and other cosmetic work will be completed after the start of classes, he said.


The biggest change parents, students and the community will notice, so far as getting to and from school on Monday, is buses.

Lots more buses.

Since the new intermediate school is located off busy US 79 at the western edge of Rockdale, district officials pledged free busing to and from the campus for all students in grades 3-5.

The district not only made good on that pledge but later expanded the busing program to other campuses so that no RISD student would have to walk across US 79, FM 487 or FM 908 to get to school.

Karl Kacir, assistant superintendent for business, said many students have signed up to ride the free buses but "for the first couple of weeks" students are welcome to simply get on the buses.

Lists of bus stops are available at individual campuses or online at


At the intermediate campus there's now plenty of room to drop off and pick up students and the campus will try something new after school to facilitate student pickup.

Principal Pam Kaufmann said color-coded placards bearing the family name and each representing a different grade, to hang on rear-view mirrors or otherwise display, will be given to those picking up students.

There will then be designated lanes for each grade.

Kaufmann said details are still being worked out but packets will be handed out during Sunday's open house and sent home with students after classes start.

"We think this will greatly help getting the students into vehicles each afternoon," she said.

Kaufmann, formerly elementary school principal, is the first principal at the new campus.

Kurt Streck comes over from the junior-high to be assistant principal.

School day at the intermediate runs from 8 a.m. to 3:20 p.m.

No lockers, closed campus

There w ill be some major changes in school life for Rockdale High School students.

For starters high school students won't have lockers and there will be a closed campus at lunch.

Both are a result of the increased size of the campus.

It's a "no-locker" situation now. Students will have one set of books kept in classrooms and another set at home.

Current lockers, which are only in the "old" part of RHS are locked with cables.

Students had expressed concern about being tardy in the new RHS, which covers almost 150,000 square feet, if trips between classes required locker stops.

Also, a larger lunchroom now makes it possible for RHS to serve all its students on-campus during lunch periods so the campus at lunch has been closed to all grade levels.

Monday meetings

RHS students w ill be able to participate in a "middle college" approach this term, riding school buses to and from Temple College's Cameron campus to take college courses as part of their high school curriculum.

Those students who have an 8 a.m. class in Cameron on Monday should gather under the rotunda at 7:10 a.m., according to Principal Chad Jones, who said the bus will leave at 7:20

All other students, including those who have later classes at TC-Cameron, must meet at 8:10 a.m. Monday in the new gym.

Jones said students should pick up their parking permits between 9 a.m. and 12-noon Friday in the new administrative offices. "Students must present a valid driver's license and current proof of insurance to get a parking tag," he said.

"Visitors to the campus should follow the signs that read "administrative offices" on the northwest side of the campus to enter the building," he said.

Newcomer Nick Reeves is assistant high school principal.

RHS goes to an eight-period day for 2009-2010 with the school day running from 8:15 a.m. to 3:39 p.m.


School day at Rockdale Junior- High runs from 8:10 a.m. to 3:40 p.m.

RJH has two "new" administrators, both coming over from Rockdale High School.

April Eschberger is junior-high principal and Allen Sanders is assistant principal.

Both were assistant principals last year at RHS.


Elementary students began using their new lunchroom—part of the bond program—last year but the big change on that campus will be much less overcrowding.

Half the elementary's school population is gone, moved to the new intermediate.

While that should make for less-stressful traffic congestion around the campus, police warn that all of last year's traffic regulations, including one-way streets, remain in effect during morning and evening school rush hours.

Robin Faulkner, an assistant principal last year, becomes elementary principal and Gena Helton is assistant principal/ counselor.

Elementary school day runs from 8 a.m. to 3:20 p.m.

What's new?

At t he intermediate level, everything.

The new building is 73,635 square feet, including an 8,323- foot cafetorium and a 4,422 square-foot gym.

There are three nine-classroom wings, one for each grade, a library, special education area, science and computer labs and an art room.

The new Rockdale High School is truly that, new.

S event y perc ent (104 ,366 square feet of 149,600 total) is either brand new construction or renovations in the old building.

Every outside window in the old RHS has been replaced, to blend in with the new architecture, and the old Murray Avenue main entrance was eliminated.

RHS now has a new 12,561- square foot gym-athletics area in a wing that measures more than 18,000 square feet.

(The old RHS gym was retained as a practice facility.)

There's a new band hall, library, math and science wings, lunchroom with three serving lines and a snack bar and an entrance foyer under a 40-foot cupola.



On Sunday the public gets its first chance to go inside the new 73,645-square-foot Rockdale Intermediate School. There's an open house/meet the teacher event scheduled for 2 to 4 p.m. Tours of the new building for the public will be available, Principal Pam Kaufmann said. Classes start the next day. The campus will house grades 3-5.


Sixth-grade orientation is 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday in the junior-high commons. Principal April Eschberger said seventh and eighth-graders new to RJH will be assigned a student "buddy" on the first day of school Monday.


"Meet the Teacher/Stash Your Stuff" Day at Rockdale Elementary School is set for 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, according to Principal Robin Faulkner. The elementary campus now houses only grades pre-K to 2.


An open house at the expanded/renovated Rockdale High School will be scheduled in the near future, according to Principal Chad Jones.

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