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Ground broken for future Del Norte school

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School Board President Alan Gedde adjusts the microphone for Aniston Montoya before her speech about the groundbreaking for a new Del Norte Elementary School at 2701 N. Garden Ave. (Alison Penn Photo)

Student says school is ‘filled with excitement’ for new building

Del Norte Elementary School students donned yellow plastic construction hats at the school’s groundbreaking ceremony for a new building on Friday afternoon.

Roswell Independent School District (RISD) Superintendent Dr. Ann Lynn McIlroy and all of the school board members, along with Mayor Dennis Kintigh and the Chamber of Commerce’s Red Coats, gathered on the school’s playground at 2701 N. Garden Ave., where students and parents were waiting for the ceremony. Mac Roger, RISD construction coordinator, other school officials and some of the team of architects were also present.

Kintigh led the groundbreaking. The RISD school board, Principal Suzi Coggins and Kintigh dug their shovels into the ground in unison after students counted the groundbreaking down, then cheered. Board member Mona Kirk, who represents District 1, said she was “extremely excited” for the Del Norte Dragons.

A third-grade student, Aniston Montoya, addressed the audience on behalf of the school’s students and staff. Her teacher, Linda Schultz, joined Montoya at the lectern. Montoya, 9, said the staff and students are “filled with excitement to begin learning our huge new building.” The building’s completion date is, tentatively, before the 2020 school year, according to the architects.

Montoya said the current building has held “great education, special friendships and forever memories,” but the number of students has outgrown the facility, and in addition to the building, portables are now used that are “warm in the summer and cold in the winter.”

“A couple of things I will miss are the painting on the walls that the fifth graders and the big portrait of the dragon,” Montoya said. “But the new building will have a large classroom with big windows that will allow lots of sunshine in, separate rooms for art, music and computer lab and my favorite room — a new library. All of these things will improve our learning and new memories and forever friendships will be made.

“We will also have a cafeteria that is not in the gym. And lastly, my favorite thing will be new playgrounds that will be safe for all the student to play on. This is so exciting. So again, I want to thank you all for being here for this exciting time and huge thanks to all the people that have a part in us getting a new building. It is time for a new and larger building where improved education, new friendships and better forever memories will be made.

“I say let’s get this party started!”

After Montoya’s speech, the guests of honor gave her a standing ovation. Following the groundbreaking, Montoya told the Daily Record that she was a “little nervous” before her speech, but listened to advice from her mom and family members.

Coggins, who has been principal for the last two years, said the groundbreaking was a “long time coming.” She said the groundbreaking will have a positive impact on the community and she encouraged the community to witness the progress at the school.

“I went to this school when I was in sixth grade myself, so I have a really heartfelt connection to this school,” Coggins said. “So being here as the principal now … and being part of the groundbreaking — and being part of a new school building is just so dear to my heart.”

Before his speech, Mayor Dennis Kintigh said hello to “the mob of kids” and they greeted him in unison.

“These projects are not easy,” Kintigh said. “We all know that. We’ve been through a few in the city, but what you guys have been doing and what you continue to do is so critical to this town. You’re shaping the future of Roswell. And so what I want to do today is say thank you to the educators, they are standing around this field, to the board which has stepped up to this, to the administration. What you do is so incredibly important and I, as the mayor of this town, I am in your debt. Thank you.”

Due to general obligation bonds, plans have been for construction of a new, two-story facility to replace the aged school.

Originally, the city of Roswell and RISD had an informal agreement for the city to turn over Del Norte Park (the park behind the school) to allow for construction during the school year. The two entities worked out an agreement in August to simply allow a 60-foot encroachment onto the park, while the city continues to maintain the park.

Along with the park, concerns about parking planned for the school, and vehicular and foot traffic around the buildings, were discussed at public forums, city meetings and RISD meetings.

“What’s happening here today is we are going to break the ground on a new facility that is going to launch thousands and thousands of children to do amazing things in our community, in our state and in the world,” School Board President Alan Gedde said after quoting Psalm 127, comparing children to arrows and schools to quivers. “Isn’t that the truth? So today I just wanted to say — isn’t this awesome that we get to do this? And thank you for so many people who have come, first of all to see it, but second of all, (to) all of those who voted to say yes we want to build more schools in Roswell — because that is what it’s about, is giving our children the opportunity to do great things.”

City/RISD reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.