After more than a year of construction and renovations, Vail Elementary School in Temecula officially celebrated the opening of its reworked campus with a grand re-opening Saturday, Jan. 11.
The elementary school is one of the oldest in the Temecula Valley Unified School District, first constructed in the late 1970s to serve Temecula’s very first subdivisions, was closed for the entire 2018-19 school year while construction crews knocked down one of its aging buildings to replace it with a new two-level structure and library, while also remodeling the remaining buildings. The campus opened to students for fall 2019, but construction was not finally completed until December, according to the school’s principal, Jimmy Evans.
The newly modernized campus features upgrades like in-classroom Smart Boards, but in remaking the school, the opportunity was taken to make other changes as well.
“I feel like in education we are notorious for not keeping up with where it’s going to be and always being way behind the 8-ball in everything we do,” Evans told community members at the grand opening. “So really, what Vail was meant to be is a place where we try to get ahead of the ball — finally, try to get moving forward.”
What was one of the oldest schools in the district is now one of the most innovative ones.
The school now has a 1:1 iPad to student ratio, Evans said. Teachers who may previously have sent out paper now communicate with parents almost exclusively through the Seesaw app.
And the innovations aren’t just limited to technology. Unlike most other schools, Evans said Vail now no longer has any bells throughout the day.
“What you’ll find is that at any given school, you have more bells that you have to ignore than you have to pay attention to,” he said. “So you may have upwards of 24 bells in a school day, and you may only have to listen to eight or 10 of those. So at that point in time, it’s like, why are we doing it?”
Evans, who said he has worked for Temecula Valley Unified for 16 years, starting as a middle school science teacher and most recently serving as principal at Helen Hunt Jackson Elementary School, said the district took the opportunity while renovating the school to try to make changes that will benefit students and prepare them for future jobs that may not even exist yet.
“I think that initially we had the opportunity because this campus needed to be renovated and they were going to see, well, how are we going to rebrand it?” Evans said.
The new campus served to impress community members who showed up to see it.
“Wow, it’s fantastic,” said Liz Morris, who taught at the school when it first opened. She said it was almost unrecognizable.
Judy Lotspeich, another former Vail teacher, said the combination of building and technological improvements will give Vail students an obvious leg up moving forward.
“These children are getting a boost like no other in the district,” she said.
Classes began again at Vail on Jan. 7.
Will Fritz can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.