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South San Antonio ISD welcomes students and teachers to three reopened schools

Many teachers and students are showing up to schools that just reopened after a multi-million dollar renovation project.

SAN ANTONIO — It's the first day back for students and teachers with South San Antonio ISD. 

Hundreds of students showed up to Athens Elementary School, Kazen Middle School, and South San Antonio High School's West Campus. 

These three campuses recently went through a $3 million renovation project and just reopened for the upcoming school year.

Athens and Kazen have been closed for the last two years.

Jenny Suniga Collier is the spokesperson for South San Antonio ISD. She said it took about seven months to get these campuses ready for the school year.

"At the beginning of this year, they decided to reopen the schools," Suniga Collier said.  "Our board members felt like this was something that the community wanted. There was a lot of emotions when two of our campuses closed."

Athens has reopened with a new mission. This is the district's first "Community School" where wraparound services will be offered to assist a child's entire family. A phased-in approach will begin with identifying organizations and services that support the health and well-being of the child, provide educational opportunities for caregivers and ensure services are easily accessible. 

Mary Rivera teaches first grade at Athens. She said the first day of school was filled with excitement for students and teachers.

"Today has been a day to remember since everything is so new for everybody," Rivera said. "We have new equipment, everything was here just in time for students!"

Suniga Collier added that more "Community Schools" are on the way. Palo Alto Elementary and Armstrong Elementary are next in line to adopt the model.

Kazen will incorporate a variety of opportunities designed to allow students to explore, discover and develop interests and skills. This will help guide them through career decisions for high school and college. These experiences will also facilitate the design process for the implementation of a Choice Academy for the 2020-2021 school year.

Kazen Middle School Principal Anna Lopez used to teach at this school years ago. She's proud to see students back roaming the halls.

"It meant a lot to me when I worked here," Lopez said. "It had a small community feel and it's nice to return to that same feeling."  

The West Campus is located inside the district's administration building. Office spaces were converted into classrooms.

Dr. Lee Hernandez is the executive principal for South San Antonio High School. He said the building has been transformed to meet the needs of students.

"You walk into the classroom and you wouldn't know you're in an administrative building. It's awesome," Hernandez said. "The kids are excited, the community is excited, parents are excited. We're blessed to provide this opportunity for kiddos in our area."

West Campus will provide freshman students with an academic foundation focused on core subjects. There will be smaller class sizes for core subjects and students will be bused back to South San Antonio High School for extra-curricular activities and other programs.

"We wanted to open it up with a smaller footprint because it has been about 10 or 12 years since this campus has been open," Suniga Collier said.  "Eventually, each year we'll add another grade until we're a full high school. Then it will be its own high school."

With more charter schools popping up, Suniga Collier said this is their way of staying competitive. 

"We want to be able to offer them more opportunities, so that's why we're hoping to offer, eventually, different programs," Suniga Collier said. "Our high school has over 22 CTE programs. We have a number of things over at the high school. We want to add to that with this campus as well."

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