Principals at new Port Neches-Groves ISD campuses share initial reactions

Published 12:20 am Tuesday, September 12, 2023

PORT NECHES — Groves Intermediate School Principal Mandy Champagne is loving her newly opened campus.

From technology to living room spaces, library to science lab and more Champagne enjoys everything about the new school.

“We love our library, which is like a focal point of the school,” Champagne said. “The science lab and outdoor lab — huge hit. If there ever was a doubt the science lab was going to be awesome, you’ll just need to stop by and see all the cool things that are happening.”

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There are still a few things that need to be completed at the campus and a few adjustments have been made, which is to be expected, she said.

Enthusiasm and energy at the newly opened Port Neches Primary School is off the charts, Principal Kevin Schexnaider said during Monday’s school board meeting.

“When the kids walked through, and their parents, that first day, you could just see the excitement on their faces,” Schexnaider said. “Kudos to the district because people want to come in here because we do things the right way. It’s an absolutely beautiful building. We’re not completely finished yet, but it’s extremely beautiful. And we could not be happier. We appreciate all the support in the community that made this happen.”

Groves Primary School Principal Joe Cegielski said things are getting better each day at the school. (Mary Meaux/The News)

Groves Primary School Principal Joe Cegielski is likewise excited about the new school.

“So, maybe it’s kind of cliché but it keeps getting better every day,” Cegielski said. “I talked to a teacher today, and I said can you believe it was just a month ago when we walked in? There was still a lot of work to do and in a month it’s really ready to go.”

Two newly built intermediate schools opened at the start of the school year, while the two primary schools were forced to postpone opening until Sept. 5 due to construction issues.

While the four new schools are open, there is work to be done at the primary schools to complete the construction.

Port Neches-Groves Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Mike Gonzales commended staff and administrators for doing a great job and said in a few weeks the primary schools would be up and running exactly as they are expected.

Port Neches-Groves Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Mike Gonzales, left, gives input into the four new schools that opened recently. (Mary Meaux/The News)

“Our intermediate campuses are doing a very great job of just going in there and learning the ropes,” Gonzales said.

“When you go into a new building, it’s not just teachers that have to learn a new routine. Students have to learn a new routine. The parents have to learn a new routine.”

New routines also impact every department in the district, as well from transportation to food nutrition to technology, he said.

Opening four new schools at once is unheard of, Gonzales said.

“Most districts, when they open up schools, they open up one at a time. To open four schools at one time is unheard of. And that just tells you how hard everyone in the district has worked. And when I say everyone, I mean everyone.”

The four new schools are part of a 2019 bond approved by voters.

The two primary schools, which house prekindergarten to second grades, were not ready to open at the start of the 2023-24 school year, so the start date was pushed from Aug. 17 to Aug. 21.

The date was moved forward a second time to Sept. 5, because days before the scheduled opening, district leaders learned of areas with no air conditioning, incomplete cafeteria and other concerns.