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Abilene ISD's Newest Facility Welcomes More Than 800 Young Students

(Joy Bonala/KACU) Jeremy Bartley organizes his classroom at Long Early Learning Center before the start of the new school year.
(Joy Bonala/KACU) Jeremy Bartley organizes his classroom at Long Early Learning Center before the start of the new school year.

Today kicks off the new school year for for Abilene ISD, it’s also meet the teacher day at Abilene’s early learning center. Abilene consolidated its Woodson, Reagan and Locust campuses, moving everyone to Long Early Learning Center where more than 800 students, all 3- and 4-years-old, will attend the renovated facility.

Teachers like Beverly Self are overjoyed to welcome students into brand new classrooms

“I have so much room, I have so much storage and we have a beautiful window in the back and I’m just really excited to see all we can do in this school,” Self said.

Expansion of Long is the final part of AISD’s $87.7 million bond approved by voters in 2013.  A new wing with 25 additional classrooms will accommodate children in the district’s head start program. Long also serves kids in pre-kindergarten, dual language classes and those with a significant learning difference. Both Beverly Self and Director Jenny Putnam are especially grateful for one major update to the facility.

“Unless you work with little tiny kids this doesn’t matter to anybody in the whole world but we have restrooms all over this place,” Putnam said. “On our other campuses for 400 3- and 4-year-olds we had one set of restrooms so we feel like we are living in very high cotton right now”

Back inside her classroom, Self has centers ready to provide fun activities but she’s also prepared a space that will meet emotional needs as well as intellectual.

“I put my safe place together and just really prayed over it because that’s what I want these children to feel is safe,” Self said.

Long has incorporated conscious discipline into their program, Putnam said it’s philosophy of discipline helps kids learn to to identify their own emotions.

“So when they get into kindergarten and they’re really frustrated, they can say to the teacher, ‘I am frustrated,’ because sometimes anger and frustration on the outside look the same and we respond to people differently when we hear different words,” Putnam said.  

Self said the philosophy also empowers kids and adults by teaching them to speak up against bullying. But perhaps the biggest thing you should know about the new and improved learning center is that it’s not a daycare, it’s a school. The purpose is to move kids forward into academic success. Teacher Jeremy Bartley says these kids really need that kind of attention from educators. Many of his students are at risk of falling behind academically in the future but the work he does now can help prevent negative outcomes.

“We really work with those kids who need it a lot and it’s rewarding to just be able to know that you made a difference," Bartley said. "And then they’re going to go and make a difference and then it just goes on and on and on.”