Abilene ISD Hartford Center is now a vital part of the educational community
It’s an old place. It has been part of the Abilene Independent School District for decades.
But the building formerly known as Reagan Elementary has a new purpose, and its new occupants are looking to make the most of what’s available.
The old school building on Hartford Street in west Abilene, now renamed to reflect its Hartford Center address, is the district’s headquarters for all matters of professional development.
No more cafeteria and gymnasium. They are now large capacity conference rooms, where teachers can come for their learning needs.
âThe district needed its own dedicated space for this,â said Ketta Garduno, associate superintendent for program and education. âIn the past, we ended up entrusting ourselves to other buildings in the neighborhood. This gives us our own dedicated space.
This is, however, only part of the old school. There is another piece to the puzzle which is Hartford Center. And it is a public issue with implications for thousands of school children and their families.
New house, same service
Darrin Cox was running out of space in the basement of the One AISD Center.
There, Cox maintained an elaborate storage room stocked with a number of children’s supplies. Shelves full of sweatshirts and pants filled a room lined with shelves of sneakers and other shoes. All items of any size that a student in the district might need.
There were other supplies as well, such as notebooks, pens and pencils, scissors and glue. And backpacks to put them on.
These materials are not available to just any student, however. Cox is in charge of the district’s response to homeless students, according to the McKinney-Vento federal law classification. There is a process by which students and families are eligible for Cox assistance.
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What started a few years ago in a small closet next to his desk in the Federal Programs Division of the District Administrative Building has grown too big for two large rooms in the underground area of ââthe Old Downtown Mall. city.
Taking over what were originally the administrative offices of the former Reagan Elementary School, as well as some of the closest classrooms to Hartford Street, Cox now has more room to expand and improve the experience of those who come to ask for his services or to repeat.
âHere’s the cool thing about this new space: One of the classrooms can be almost a welcome center for those who come in,â Cox said. “We have booklets available. It’s … very welcoming. Our families who have used it already tell me how welcoming it is.”
Enough room for you
In addition to the reception area, Cox said his new location offers three main rooms filled to the brim with supplies.
The first, he said, will focus primarily on the college experience. With these schools requiring standardized dress, each piece of the uniform is available in many different sizes. For both boys and girls.
This room will also be equipped with physical education clothes, so that students who need its services are not deprived of more sporting options during gym classes. Hygiene packs, including toothbrushes and toothpaste, as well as underwear and socks – the two most requested items throughout her store – complete the room’s content.
In bedroom 2, other clothing items are available. From jeans and pants – part of Cox’s mission is to make sure his older students have clothes that can help them find jobs – to all kinds of shirts, there are plenty of clothing options available, Cox said.
Options are even available for infants, he said, both for children of homeless students and for families with newly born siblings.
And the last piece?
It’s for the feet, he says.
âThe last room is the shoe room,â Cox said. “And these are all new shoes … 99.9% of them are new shoes.”
Last year, Cox said, his office helped about 1,400 students. So far this year the number is around 820. So the extra space is quite convenient.
The shoe room will divide the space with the range of jackets and coats, as these items would not fit into the other rooms.
One final room, not accessible to the public, is the new storage space, Cox said. Providing a place to store items that are essentially excess until the items on display can be moved to the students is huge.
âIt’s as big as our entire storage area that I had, plus half the showroom, at (One AISD Center),â Cox said.
Garduno, meanwhile, circled the end of February on his calendar.
This is when the other use of the building will be tested for the first time.
Although professional learning programs such as engage2learn’s teacher training programs have been operating from space since it reopened in the fall, there have been no district-wide events. .
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On February 23, Garduno will know if the plan is working.
âOne of the challenges is parking,â Garduno said. âWe need to look at how we can economically meet our parking needs. There are only 100 places at the moment. We need more than that. Maybe we’ll use Clack’s parking lot. But we think outside the box to try to resolve these issues and make sure we are making full use of our facilities. “
A facility like this, aimed at providing teachers with a dedicated space for their own learning and professional development, is an important part of Garduno’s arsenal, she said.
It gives coaches a place of their own with dedicated space for their equipment. But it also offers a clear path to help teachers become the best in themselves.
Garduno said it was one of the best parts of being a campus principal once she left the classroom and entered administration.
âWhen I was a campus principal, one of the things I loved the most was working with teachers, including younger teachers who had just graduated from school,â Garduno said. âI missed this daily interaction with these teachers.
“I believe we need to prepare our teachers with the tools they need and by investing in them we are going to be able to prepare our teachers well. Our local universities are doing a fantastic job, but the field of education is constantly on the move. evolution. It is our responsibility to help teachers with what they need. This facility gives us the opportunity to support these teachers. “
One of the most important and most evolving parts is technology.
Staff at the center will be well equipped with both the latest products such as applications and the hardware needed to run them, Garduno said.
The center has a dedicated computer lab, as well as 16 professional learning rooms. The Hartford Center also has four mock classrooms, where district educators can practice what they saw before bringing it to their classrooms.
Gym and cafeteria areas are also available with 180 seats each, also for large gatherings.
Outside the dungeon
Since the majority of the space on the ground floor of One AISD Center is occupied by offices, there were few options in the building for additional things.
Like the Cox Homeless Student Operation or trainings like New Teacher Orientation in August.
â(We’re) not down where it’s dark,â Cox said.
âWe’ve done a lot of work using our people,â Garduno added. “We’ve done a lot of work to make sure that (Hartford Center) is inviting, that it’s clean.”
Cox’s 25 or so volunteers who help him maintain the stock and look of his operation probably appreciate not having to be downstairs, practically alone, he said.
It will likely make all the difference in the world for anyone, even the people who use the service, he said.
âWe have a small group of little old ladies who have been helping for two years,â he said. âI really think the tide of this community is going to be strengthened with us (at the Hartford Center).
Timothy Chipp covers education and is a general assignment reporter for Abilene Reporter-News. If you enjoy local news, you can support local journalists with a digital subscription to ReporterNews.com.