Midlothian's New McClatchey Elementary Exemplifies Purpose, Passion, and Pride

Ovilla, Texas ' On Sunday, August 28th, VLK Architects attended the Dedication and Ribbon Cutting Ceremony of Midlothian Independent School District's new Dolores W. McClatchey Elementary. District administration, teachers, staff, students, and community members gathered to celebrate a successful first week of school, discuss the hopes and dreams for current and future students, and honor the namesake, Mrs. Dolores McClatchey.

'Beginning in September of 2014, the Midlothian ISD (MISD) design team began taking this dream to reality; a dream to create learning spaces for teachers and students that would empower collaboration and open up endless possibilities. Their commitment to the process began a journey that brought us to today,' said Courtney Carpenter, Principal of McClatchey Elementary.

The construction of McClatchey Elementary is in response to the growth that the area has seen in recent years and a product of the $97.3 mil. bond referendum that passed in 2011.

'This is an exciting time for our district, and a project of this nature takes a lot of people,' said MISD Superintendent, Dr. Lane Ledbetter. 'Can you think about where we would be as a district right now if we didn't have this facility and if we weren't opening this elementary? Our other campuses would be fairly full. Going into this year we have over 8,300 students with projections of 8,400 range when we finish up this school year.'

To accommodate the growth of Ovilla and Midlothian, and provide a state-of-the-art new elementary school, the MISD design team collaborated with VLK and district administration to determine the goals of the new space. The foundation of McClatchey was based on the desire to provide students and teachers with innovative and flexible learning environments. It was imperative that every student be provided with opportunities to grow and excel in this new school. After the design was completed and construction was under way, MISD board members sought to name their newest elementary school after someone who was dedicated to the same principles that the design of this school was based off of and hoped to honor someone who embodied the mission of MISD and fought for the advancement of every young student's education.

'One year ago, at the ground breaking ceremony, we challenged everyone to know your purpose, find your passion and deliver it with pride. When I think of the words 'purpose,' 'passion' and 'pride,' one person in this room signifies them all. This lady poured her heart and soul into education and continues to be involved in molding the minds of today's young teachers. Mrs. McClatchey this is your day, said Carpenter'

Having spent 46 years as an educator, and 30 of those years devoted to Midlothian ISD, Dolores McClatchey's heart beats for education and the empowerment of young students. McClatchey was in attendance and spoke about how humbled and honored she is to be recognized as the new school's namesake.

'You must know that I never, ever, ever dreamed that a school, bearing my name, would happen. Not possible. It is beyond any expectation or dream that I ever had,' said Dolores McClatchey. 'The design and furnishing of this building was based on the needs of students. Any of you who know me know that I have always believed that every decision we make must be passed through a filter of, 'is this right for kids' That is what it is all about. As you look around, you'll see that this place is student-friendly and allows so much flexibility to maximize the potential of all students, and that is as it should be.'

Excitement was in the air as students walked into McClatchey Elementary for the first day of school on August 22nd. As they took in the sights and headed to their classrooms, they walked through new grade level hallways and collaborative learning spaces that were designed to cater to every student's individual learning style. McClatchey Elementary's design builds on the successful concepts of its predecessors, while embracing new ideas and learning concepts, and the faculty and staff are eager to see students grow and embrace their new innovative facility.

'Gone are the days of traditional square classrooms lined with rows of student desks,' said Ross Rivers, VLK Project Director. 'McClatchey Elementary provides learning walls that are a writable, magnetic surface their full height and width. Walls are angled such that they create division of spaces. Windows between classrooms and windows from classroom to corridor allow transparency and borrowed natural light to inner parts of the building. These features combined with innovative and flexible furniture create an environment catered to both learning and teaching.'

'The entire design process, beginning to end, has been the most amazing experience,' said Carpenter. 'As the campus leader of Dolores W. McClatchey Elementary, it is my honor and privilege to grow and serve alongside highly qualified, passionate learning designers and a school full of innovative and talented learners. It has been the most exciting opening to a new school year. Thank you to Midlothian ISD, the communities of Midlothian and Ovilla, VLK Architects, and Starling Richardson Construction for making our dream come alive!'