JAL — A light breeze and overcast sky pushed back the hot summer-like sun as dozens of students, parents, staff, officials and well-wishers gathered Friday to celebrate the grand opening of the renovated Jal High School and related facilities.
The celebration followed the Jal Panthers’ homecoming parade. The Panthers later won their homecoming game against Van Horn, 44-8.
“This is the result of the bond that was passed in 2015, a bond for $48 million that the taxpayers voted in three years ago,” said school district Superintendent Brian Snider. “The last project is the administration building that has not broken ground yet.”
In addition to a new elementary school, the district added a new competition gymnasium, locker rooms and cafeteria and built a new wing onto the high school for junior high school students, completely renovating the high school itself in the process.
By comparison, the campus now resembles many college campuses.
Gathered in the courtyard behind the high school, where a huge bronze panther statue always takes center stage, the joyous crowd frequently glanced askance at thunderheads rolling in while listening to speakers.
“If it starts raining, we’ll just move into the high school commons,” Snider laughed. The rain held off until after the ribbon-cutting ceremony, but forced the homecoming queen coronation indoors later in the day.
Snider had joked with the football team, as each team member stood proudly at the back of the raised courtyard grounds, that if the rain did come, it would just cool them off while playing in Friday night’s homecoming game.
Other speakers reminisced about the beginnings of the project, with former superintendent John Wilbanks relating efforts of a committee and the school board to determine the needs to be met for the best possible educational experience.
“It’s just great to see the final product,” Wilbanks said.
High School Principal Elaine O’Neal said, “We have our priorities right in Jal. I think that’s a wonderful thing. Our priorities in Jal, whether it’s with the students, the parents or the school, the priorities are with the kids.”
Snider outlined newly added programs including a rocket program, re-instituted shop classes, a robotics program and a culinary program that goes beyond traditional homemaking.
“Another program we’ve added this year is oilfield technology because that’s what’s going on out here,” O’Neal said. “We have several kids that are doing that program.”
School board members collectively cut the grand opening ribbon to end the ceremony, allowing the crowd the freedom to roam the halls and check out the new and renovated facilities, moments before the rain came.