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Shady Grove Elementary’s doors are closed, but heart of Burnet school still beats

JENNIFER FIERRO • PICAYUNE STAFF

BURNET — Kmart might not have envisioned the impact one of its old buildings would have when the company took it apart and transported it to Burnet more than a decade ago. But the former retail structure made its mark — in a big way.

In the 1990s, Burnet Consolidated Independent School District officials wanted to open another elementary school but were looking for something cost-effective.

So BCISD bought the old Kmart building and reassembled it on Shady Grove Road. In 1996, the district opened the recycled building as an elementary campus. Nicknamed the “Blue Light Special School” by members of the San Antonio media, Burnet simply called it Shady Grove Elementary.

WATCH VIDEO OF SCHOOL’S LAST DAY

On June 6, when the school closed its doors for the final time on the last day of the 2013 school year, almost 6,000 students had graced the halls of the building.

“It’s always had a real warm feeling about it,” school secretary Cheryl Evans said. “The parents always tell us they feel it when they come into the building. It’s home. It has an inviting feeling for grandparents, parents and students.”

Evans would know. She was a member of the Shady Grove staff when the school opened for the 1996-97 school year. Evans stayed for nine years, left and then returned when Terra Singletary became the principal in 2009.

Singletary said part of her agreeing to become the principal was Evans being a member of the staff. That illustrates the closeness so many of the members of the faculty and staff felt for each other, which spilled over to the students and their families, the principal added.

“Shady Grove has been a fabulous family of educators,” she said. “I’ve had a wonderful four years here. It’s just everybody has dedicated themselves to doing what’s best for kids, and it’s been one of the best educational experiences I’ve had.”

BCISD trustees voted to consolidate the district’s elementary campuses earlier this year. They cited a drop in average daily attendance. So it made economic sense to operate three elementary schools (Burnet, R.J. Richey and Bertram) instead. The district assigned the Shady Grove Elementary teachers and staff to other campuses for the 2013-14 school year. Most of the teachers will continue to teach the same grade level they had at Shady Grove, which became a second- and third-grade campus in 2006.

Third-grade teacher Linda Dyke packed up the most boxes and tubs, which totalled 98.

“Teachers collect things,” she said. “You never know when you can use them in your classroom. I have maps and brochures and lots of rocks and books, lots of books.”

Dyke has been a teacher for 20 years, all at BCISD, with seven at Shady Grove. She’ll go to R.J. Richey Elementary next year. She became a teacher as a career change. Before, she was a medical technologist.

“Things changed, and I didn’t want to go to work in Austin or Temple,” she said. “And I had young children, and I’ve always worked with kids. And BCISD welcomed me. They felt like they could use my science background.”

So a campus change might be difficult, but Dyke said there’s plenty to look forward to as well.

“It’s not saying goodbye,” she said. “I will get to see (my students) in fourth grade and in fifth grade. We’re looking forward to being in R.J. next year. We’ll miss all our Shady Grove family.”

Singletary understands those sentiments and hopes those who were students, teachers and staff members have fantastic memories of their time at the Blue Light Special School.

“I want (students) to remember the wonderful experiences they’ve had, the great teachers that they’ve had and all the lifelong learning they’ve had at Shady Grove and take those experiences and what they’ve learned with them,” she said. “One of the school board members, Robby Robertson, said that Shady Grove was a flagship school. If we can have each student, each teacher take that information with them to where they go, then they can continue on with our legacy.”

jfierro@thepicayune.com