Solar Prep's Trailblazers Commemorate School Opening at Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

Dallas, Texas ' Last week, on October 5th, VLK Architects attended the ribbon cutting ceremony Solar Preparatory School for Girls at James B. Bonham. The Dallas ISD facility that had a significant history as James B. Bonham Elementary School is reopening with a new flare as Solar Prep this Fall. Currently, Solar Prep provides STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) based courses for girls in first through third grade, with anticipated growth to welcome students from grades k-8 in upcoming years.

'This building was closed a couple years ago. There was a wave of 11 schools that were closed during different financial times and when you close a campus, in some ways, you close a community,' said Mike Koprowski, Dallas ISD's Chief of Transformation and Innovation. 'So for the past three years through the Public School Choice Initiative (PSC), we have been able to reopen some of these vacant buildings as new start up schools that we call 'Transformation Schools' with open enrollment across the entire district. These schools belong to the city as a whole.'

New Transformation Schools within DISD are identified through a proposal process, allowing educators to submit ideas about their dream school. Solar Prep was developed from this process. An idea was sent in about a kindergarten through 8th grade STEAM school for girls. Solar Prep students aren't chosen based on an essay or by their respective attendance boundaries within Dallas ISD, but picked through a lottery. In addition, Solar Prep is one of the most diverse schools in Dallas which was intentional by design. The enrollment count this year is 198 students and fifty percent of the spots are reserved for students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, creating exposure to all the things that have been proven to contribute to successful careers and mature adult life.

'We know that racially and socioeconomically diverse schools are better learning environments for all students. We know that academic achievement improves when students are able to work with other students from different backgrounds, and they harbor less prejudice later in life. Students in diverse schools are more likely to develop cross-racial friendships and these are all very excting things,' said Koprowski.

VLK Architects was selected to help get the facility up and running again after years of being out of commission. New appliances and equipment were added to the cafeteria, restroom suites were added to six different kindergarten and first grade classrooms, and cosmetic updates were included throughout, helping to give this older facility a new feel for the new school. The end result is a facility that is as inviting and exciting as the students who occupy it.

'We are so grateful to have to all here to celebrate the hard work of our mighty team,' said Nancy Bernadino, Solar Prep Principal 'Two years ago, this school existed only in the minds of a few educators who wanted to bring something new to Dallas ISD. Today, you stand in front of a school, bustling with energy as girls engage in critical thinking, project based learning around STEAM subjects, making and creating in our maker space, and engaging in conversations and experiences that help build their self-awareness, curiosity, empathy, humility, leadership and grit.'

Solar Prep's goal is to empower girls to live and lead with purpose not only through a high quality education but through their ability to relate to one another.

'Our goal is that these girls can be the trailblazers that pave the path for generations of women to come. It is not enough to prepare our girls for personal success,' said Bernadino. 'We want to prepare them to be the voices and advocates for those who can't speak for themselves. However, we know we cannot do this alone. On behalf of Assistant Principal, Jennifer Turner, and myself, thank you to those who took time to meet with us as we began writing this proposal in November 2014. Most importantly, I want to thank our Solar Prep families for joining us on this journey. We asked you to take a leap of faith with us, and you rose to our call. Because of you and your incredible daughters, we stand here today, celebrating the opening of Solar Prep.'