El Paso ISD’s newest school is ending its second week in session. The Mesita Early Childhood Center at Vilas is the first of its kind in the district.
Earlier this year parents, were hesitant about closing Vilas Elementary. Vilas’ second through fifth graders were moved to Mesita Elementary, then Mesita’s Pre-Kindergarten through first graders were merged with Vilas’, now the Mesita Early Childhood Center.
“Everything from their chairs being at their level, bathrooms being at their level, I love it,” said parent Randy Ponce. “From the get go we were strong supporters. My wife and I are extremely excited to see what the future holds. And so far so good.”
Over the summer, EPISD spent about $600,000 to make Vilas fit for small children. White boards have been lowered, there’s a new playground and classrooms are colorfully cozy. Parents have a new parking lot with a drop off zone.
“The Center starts earlier than the elementary campus, so if parents want they can drop-off and pick-up with time in between,” said Principal Anna Ferris.
If not there’s buses, taking former Vilas Elementary students across mesa to Mesita, and vice versa.
Teachers from Mesita and Vilas spent the summer preparing to teach kids under five, teach being the key word.
“It’s more than sit at the table and just work on your writing, your alphabet, your numbers, this is active learning,” Ferris said.
These teachers aren’t just glorified babysitters. They have to be ready to teach duel language programs, including Mandarin, teach technology to kids who just graduated from being toddlers, and cultivate gifted and talented minds.
“They’re very needy at that age, so you’re having to explain in detail what you want them to do,” said teacher leader Jaclyn Al-Hanna.
Both Socorro and Ysleta ISD’s offer early childhood centers, and as principal of EPISD’s first, Ferris is looking forward to a smooth school year.
“Here we are,” Ferris said. “The children are settled, the teachers are teaching and the students are learning. And it’s moving so beyond out expectations.”
The Center is not done growing. Soon it will be undergoing more construction to add additional parking. The Center has also partnered with UTEP, allowing teaching students to gain real-world experience in the classroom. They will be on campus in the coming weeks.