Clutched tightly in the hand of longtime Central Texan Buster Dale Saturday was a more than 70-year-old photo that spoke beyond its borders.
The image, circa the early 1940s, showed Dale and a handful of relatives and friends posing for a grade-school class photo at the long-gone Uhland school, a campus that served rural areas in east Hays and west Caldwell counties from the 1890s to the 1950s.
While the memories from that time aren’t as clear, Dale knew how important the campus was for those who sought an education for themselves beyond the farm.
Years later, Dale believes Saturday’s grand opening of Uhland Elementary, Hays CISD’s 14th elementary campus and its furthest east, is meaningful for those like him, who believe it can offer opportunities for the next generation.
“It’s unbelievable. It’s great they are putting this type of school out here and giving everyone the same type of opportunities that the kids in school in big towns used to have, that us country boys didn’t,” Dale said.
Cynthia Vasquez, Uhland Elementary principal, said it was excited to see the 115,000-square foot campus begin to take a personality of its own during construction in what was once an open field. But she was also excited to bring a “state-of-the-art,” 21st century campus to the east side of the district.
Vasquez said Uhland will have new features unique to the campus, including learning spaces, four science labs, and a dedicated makerspace room. Vasquez said Uhland is one of the most advanced campuses in the district. Eric Wright, Hays CISD superintendent, said the campus will have roughly 900 students attend when school starts Aug. 14.
Wright said the projected student populace nears the entire enrollment of Hays CISD when it was first created in 1967, and will have more students than the old Uhland schools taught in its 50-year history.
“It’s our drive and passion to help our students,” Vasquez said. “We as a campus will excel where it’s not only easy, but where it’s hard.”
Wright said Hays CISD plans to continue the tradition of the old Uhland school and the hard work first started by the German immigrants who founded the campus at the end of the 19th century.
“We are a century later carrying out their vision and hopes and dreams for children who are lucky enough to call this community home,” Wright said. “Today, we honor the past, our roots, and foundation, but also celebrate the possibility of progress and rejoice the promise of the future.”
U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin) said focusing on dual language is critical for today’s students, due to the advantages of speaking multiple languages.
Doggett mirrored the words of President Lyndon Baines Johnson, who said primary and secondary education offers a passport for children who face socioeconomic hardships to escape poverty.
“What will happen with this school, with the right encouragement, is each of these students will get their passport to continue on through our public schools and universities to a much better place,” Doggett said.