“Last night, I was nervous,” said Jim Russell, a sixth grade science teacher at Denison’s B. McDaniel Intermediate School. “I’ve been teaching 22 years, and I wasn’t that nervous I don’t think even my first year.”
The reason, he said, was because he felt unprepared. With the recent construction and campus shakeups in Denison Independent School District, preparing for the first day of school has been a challenge
The DISD which started class on Tuesday is very different from the DISD of a year ago. Much attention has gone to the brand new high school, but that school allowed a major shift to happen in the District. The old high school has been rechristened the Henry Scott Middle School, and it holds seventh and eighth graders. The former B. McDaniel Middle School is now B. McDaniel Intermediate, keeping sixth grade and taking the fifth graders from DISD’s elementary schools. To accommodate those changes, both buildings underwent massive restoration projects.
“Last week was a total nightmare for most teachers in this building and in Henry Scott because construction was still going on,” Russell said. “We were working around construction workers, they were pulling wires, there was dust everywhere. It was just the general mess that you get with construction.”
Jan Grams, an eighth grade English teacher at Scott, had her own take on setting up her room during the construction. “It was different,” she said. “Yes, different. This is my 30th year to set up a classroom, so you go with the flow. But something new keeps you young and alive.”
Mostly, teachers were singing the praises of the renovated buildings. Sixth grade social studies teacher Daniel Sherwood said the repairs were very much needed and appreciated.
“This campus looks like a new building, the way they’ve redone the hallways and the lighting and reorganized the classrooms, made it more secure,” Sherwood said. “For all purposes, this is a new building just like the high school.”
A new building also means new opportunities, and several teachers say the shake-up has allowed them to reevaluate the way they’ve been teaching. For Grams, that meant taking a look at everything from classroom decorations to lesson plans. “I examined what I’ve been doing,” she said. “Some things I really liked, and it was time to get rid of other things.”
Construction woes notwithstanding, Russell agrees. “The changes have given us a chance to really recreate our school and do things a little differently, things that we wanted to do, but couldn’t do at the middle school,” he said. This includes new team teaching strategies and changes to passing periods aimed at cutting down mischief in the halls.
Students, however, were more occupied with traditional first-day-of-school thoughts than administrative changes. Sixth grader Jesse Gordon said he was having a “pretty good day,” and was looking forward to science class. “It’s my favorite subject,” he said. “Not my best, but my favorite.”
Jesse did say he was excited to move to the new building, and hopes he gets a chance to explore it. “I haven’t been up here except for band tryouts, but I haven’t been able to go in anywhere because all the doors were locked,” he said.
Eighth grader Darius Franklin said he was a little intimidated by the former high school building. “It’s a lot bigger, so it’s hard to find classes,” he said, but added that teachers and faculty have been willing to help him find everything he needed so far.
Even with the new construction and the District-wide shuffling of grades across campuses, the first day went much as it normally does, Russell said. His fear of being unprepared didn’t pan out.
“Things have come together, and surprisingly things are going smoothly so far,” Russell said. “I mean, I’ve still got three classes to go, but so far.”