Atwater residents, educators and local leaders celebrated the opening of the new Juniper Elementary School on Aug. 4.
The campus, located at 661 E. Juniper Ave., is the first to be added to the Atwater Elementary School District (AESD) in decades. Members of the community filled the school’s auditorium to witness the ribbon cutting ceremony. Seats filled with public servants, teachers, and families who came to see the result of years of hard work.
The school was designed with both modern features as well as modern designs for education. One major example of this will be Juniper Elementary’s upcoming dual language immersion program, a first in the district.
“Reaching a major milestone like this can only be achieved by incredible teamwork,” said Superintendent Christy Lobao. “We have been blessed to have a dedicated team and the support of the Atwater community throughout this journey.”
Lobao was followed by other speakers who were heavily involved in the project, such as AESD Board President Mark Hendrickson, Assistant Superintendent Aaron Delworth, AETA Union President Brad Pickle, CSEA Union President Esmeralda Sanchez, Juniper Elementary Principal Michele McCabe, and former AESD Superintendent Sandra Schiber, who was credited with getting the project moving shortly before her retirement. “It’s my hope, my dream, and my prayer that the children who walk the halls of Juniper Elementary for decades to come will have the education that the stamp Atwater Elementary strives to provide,” Schiber told attendees. “And that is one where children grow in confidence with their learning, develop skills so they can create the future they hope for, and the character and leadership needed to make a positive impact on their families, their school, and for their community and our world.”
The list of thanks given by each of the speakers illustrated just how many people were involved in an undertaking of this magnitude. The $30 million project was completed on time because of the cooperation of a multitude of people. “I want to take a moment to celebrate our district as a whole,” Hendrickson said. “I truly believe that, without question, we have the finest team anywhere in education.”
Special recognition was also given by the Merced County Board of Supervisors, as well as by representatives for Congressman John Duarte and Assemblywoman Esmeralda Soria. Following the ceremony, tours were provided so people could view the new state-of-the-art campus. Those in attendance had the opportunity to explore the school’s grounds, spacious library, STEM center, and classrooms. Some teachers were in their freshly decorated classrooms, and the anticipation for the upcoming school year was palpable.
“I feel excited, especially being dual immersion. That’s something unique,” said Vicki Castillo, who is entering her 11th year of teaching. “We’re ready to get this started.”