A new era begins
When the decision was made to have two gyms in the expanded Rockdale High School nobody could have forecast the second gym would be so crucial on the first day of classes.
But that's what happened Monday as the old RHS gym was a temporary home to more than 300 junior-high students after an Oncor power cable system failed at RJH leaving the campus without electricity.
It was only a minor blip on a history-making day which saw the Rockdale ISD open a new 73,635-square foot intermediate school (grades 3-5) and a 77,589-square foot addition to the high school.
"I'm very proud of the way our school personnel handled that situation," Supt. Dr. Howell Wright said.
"Aramark, our food contractors served 900 lunches at the high school cafeteria, taking care of students at both campuses. And they also served breakfast to the junior-high students in the high school lunchroom."
It wasn't the only glitch. Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) software malfunctioned, failing to operate one of the flashing caution lights to slow traffic on US 79 at the intermediate school.
A considerable end-of-school traffic jam occurred.
A Bushdale Road cable complex ser v ing the junior-high picked Monday morning to go down just as classes were about to start.
"Oncor told us that cable has about a 30-year life," Dr. Wright said. "It was the school's original cable."
Rockdale Junior-High School was constructed in 1979-80 and, until Monday had been the district's newest campus.
"Oncor took full responsibility, was on the scene and had a temporary fix completed where the students could go back to their campus about 12:30 p.m.," Dr. Wright said.
A complete new three-phase system was installed later. "It should be good for another 30 years," Dr. Wright said.
A fiber optics cable was cut during the repairs, knocking out communications.
US 79 traffic
Monday marked the first time for a Rockdale campus to be accessible off US 79 and the traffic scheme around the new intermediate is still a work in progress.
One major factor was the failure of flashing yellow lights on a TxDOT caution sign slowing down eastbound traffic at the school.
"It was a software problem and it affected lots of places besides Rockdale," Dr. Wright said. "But we had to get the police out there at one point to get our school buses across the road."
First-day school traffic pattern, especially new ones, are usually chaotic and administrators expect the traffic situation will improve on a daily basis.
Busing begins Monday was also the first day of the district's expanded busing program.
Administrators had pledged to offer free busing to all intermediate students and later expanded the program to include most students at other campuses.
"We anticipate having more students ride the buses as we get a few more days into the school year," Dr. Wright said. "That first day is usually the big day when the parents want to bring their children in person."
Students, and the district, are still learning the bus routine.
"We k now there are some pretty early pickup times," Dr. Wright said.
Parents may call campuses to inquire about bus routes and schedules.
However, the usually thickly congested streets around the elementary campus now have much lighter traffic and the "traffic cop" corner of Bushdale and Murray was virtually deserted at times.
The elementary campus now has about half the students as in previous years and the closing of Childress Avenue—the new high school extends across a portion of what was Childress—has cut traffic on part of Murray.
An open house at RHS will be held when the campus is fully completed.
Work on the librar y, some dressing rooms and landscaping issues are among the items remaining on the high school project.
"It sounds funny to say it, with all the unexpected events, but I'm very pleased with the way the day went," Dr. Wright said.
"We have beautiful new facilities and were able to use some of them to deal with the situation at the junior high," he said. "We're very proud of the way it was handled."