When school starts this week, close to 600 Alvin students will start a new tradition when they walk into Bob and Betty Nelson Elementary School for the first time.
After two years of construction and more than three years after voters approved the funding, Alvin ISD will open two schools Thursday.
Nelson is on the outskirts of Alvin on County Road 185, just off FM 1462. A second school, Bel Sanchez Elementary, will open in the Sterling Lakes subdivision.
When students walk into Nelson, they will see a one-of-a-kind facility in Alvin ISD. Using a new architect, the school has two floors, with the younger kids downstairs and the older ones upstairs. An open-concept library is big on the ground floor, encouraging students and teachers to spend time inside.
Principal Tracy Olvera moved to Nelson from Alvin Elementary when that school closed and moved in with Alvin Primary School. Olvera and her team of administrators and teachers were heavily involved in the planning of the school, which will ultimately house 800 students.
“There were a lot of personal touches,” Olvera said. “Because it’s a rehab of an old school, the heart of Alvin Elementary is in it.”
Olvera said ultimately Nelson Elementary will be designated as a STEAM school, with an emphasis on technology, engineering, art and math. With that emphasis, every student beginning in first grade will spend time in a technology lab and an engineering lab as well as have time for art and music.
“All the kids will come to our technology lab,” Olvera said. “They’ll do that once a week and we’ll do PE once a week.”
Technology will be much more than just the basics, too. By the time a student reaches fifth grade, they will be learning about and working on subjects like coding.
One thing that sets Nelson apart in Alvin ISD is every major hallway has space set aside as flex space. The space is designed to let teachers take students out of the classroom for special lessons. Upstairs, the flex space even moves outside to a patio.
“One of the things we talked about in the design of the building is we didn’t want a lot of small flex spaces,” Olvera said. “This space is big enough to hold two or three classrooms.”
Olvera said the advantage of the size is not only can teachers use it creatively, when there are special programs in the school, they don’t have to take over the library.
Students who attended Alvin Elementary last year and are moving to Nelson will see a lot of familiar faces. In addition to Olvera, much of the Alvin Elementary teaching team moved over.
Olvera said only two teachers new to Alvin ISD were hired and both were experienced teachers.
Fourth-grade math teacher Megan Aguirre was busy setting up her classroom Tuesday. She said the new school is amazing, and she can’t wait to meet her students.
“I love this,” she said. “I’m really excited. I’m excited for there to be kids using it.”
There are a lot of little touches that make the school unique in the district. One thing Olvera was excited about was every classroom has four standing desks for students. How the teachers will use the desks is up to them, but Olvera said sometimes being able to stand up while working is beneficial.
When school opens Thursday, Bob Nelson hopes to be on hand to greet students entering the school named after he and his wife.
Bob Nelson was a longtime Alvin businessman and community leader while Betty Nelson taught at Alvin Elementary for many years.
Through the new school and the thousands of students who will work their way through it in the future, the Nelson’s legacy in Alvin will continue for decades to come.