MONIQUE BATSON — School bonds bring needed upgrades but sentimental sadness

Published 12:05 am Friday, March 25, 2022

Change is under construction in Mid County.

With the 2019 approval of bonds in the Port Neches-Groves and Nederland independent school districts, students in the three towns will soon be attending all new or expanded schools.

And, having attended most of the schools at the heart of the bond proposals, I can say it’s a much-needed improvement towards the education of our children.

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But it wasn’t until a recent comment by my 16-year-old that I began to grasp the sentimental sadness that comes along with it.

“I’ll be one of the last classes to walk through my elementary school,” he said of his upcoming senior year.

Before graduation, the PNGISD seniors don their caps and gowns and parade through the halls of the schools that raised them, met by signs and cheers from the small children who will one day be them. I was there the day my stepson walked through Woodcrest in 2018, and I had to use the biggest camera I could find to hide my tears from him and his classmates that I had watched grow from first graders, learning how to read to adults that had driven themselves to school that morning.

But the emotions didn’t stem just from seeing him in his graduation attire. I had once been like the students on the sidelines in that same school, and I was standing in front of what was once my third-grade homeroom class.

My kindergarten year was spent at Hillcrest Elementary in Nederland, which will soon undergo upgrades and expansions.

I started first grade at Woodcrest in Mrs. Cobb’s class. And if you’re from Mid County, you probably know Mrs. Cobb. She taught me, she taught my oldest and she’s now teaching our grandchildren.

While I would return to Woodcrest for the second half of my second grade year, it began at Highland Park in Nederland. Like Hillcrest, this school will also be revamped in the near future.

Port Neches Elementary School was my home for fourth and fifth grade, and I would spend sixth grade at Port Neches Middle School. It was torn down and replaced with a new building right before my oldest would become a student there.

The summer before my seventh grade year, we moved for the last time before I would graduate, and I was enrolled in C.O. Wilson Middle School in Nederland. It, too, will be upgraded and expanded. And the four years I spent at Nederland High School will be just memories once the building is demolished and rebuilt.

Having been a part of the open-classroom concept the facility was built for, I certainly see the need for a new campus. But I can’t pass by it now without remembering the lockers we decorated, the pep rallies we danced in, the classes that shaped me and the people who walked with me across the football field on May 27, 1999, to get our diplomas before the storm that was thundering in the distance reached us.

My oldest would stay at Woodcrest Elementary, but we moved to the other side of town the year before my second-oldest started third grade. From there she and her two younger brothers would attend Ridgewood before moving to Port Neches Elementary, Port Neches Middle School and now Port Neches High School.

They’re the schools I sat in for parent-teacher conferences, the cafeterias in which I ate lunch with them while they were still young enough to want me to, and the gyms and auditoriums I cheered in as they performed in school programs — all the while remembering the days I was there as a student.

In August, the two still in school will be a senior and sophomore. Beginning at the same time, a consolidated 3rd-5th grade campus will open in Port Neches, those attending Woodcrest will be moved to PNE, and Woodcrest will be torn down.

The next year, a consolidated pre-K-2nd grade school will open, and Ridgewood will be torn down.

Personally I was thrilled when the two bond issues passed, allowing for much-needed improvements to so many schools.

But it will be hard not to mourn the generations worth of memories that came from those halls.

 

Monique Batson is the Port Arthur Newsmedia editor and can be reached at monique.batson@panews.com.