This article has been corrected to show that Union Park Elementary School is the district's 24th elementary.
LITTLE ELM — Hundreds of new Pioneers will soon get down to work in a campus that sprang up on what was a largely empty field just a year ago.
Along with more than 50 employees, the students of Union Park Elementary School will begin their first day of class at Denton ISD’s 24th elementary on Wednesday.
Union Park Elementary, which sits inside the Braswell High School attendance zone, will serve primarily the families and students who have recently moved into the master-planned community of the same name in Little Elm. Funding for the campus came from a $312 million bond approved by voters in 2013.
If students had lived in the area before the community was built, they would have been in either the Paloma Creek or Savannah elementary zone.
According to a growth report presented to the Denton school board in February, the area surrounding those schools had more homes sold than in any other part of the district in 2018.
Even though Union Park Elementary had roughly 300 students less than the 740-student capacity a few days before the start of school, the same growth report projects the school will exceed capacity by 2021-22.
Plans to construct other schools in the area to meet that need are already underway.
Jeff Russell, area superintendent for the Braswell attendance zone, remembers driving down a dirt road through fields to get to the site just one year ago.
“There was a big hole in the ground and some trailer houses,” he said. “And now it’s a school.”
He said the school mascot, the Pioneer, harkens back to Texas Woman’s University, but it’s also fitting for a new school in that corner of the district.
As of Monday afternoon, only the finishing touches seemed to be missing from the building.
“I mean, you see things like that,” Russell said, pointing to a room full of stacked chairs. “The aesthetics piece is what we’re working on now.”
Principal Lorena Salas, who was hired in February, said everybody involved is excited to start the school year, but teachers are still training in order to be ready for the big day. She even took time Monday to drive curious parents around the campus to illustrate how pickup and drop-off procedures will work.
“You can’t be overprepared, so it kind of eliminates the questions later,” Salas said Monday.
In addition to the regular amenities, the school has several shiny features not seen at other campuses around the district. That includes a gymnasium capable of safely housing all students and employees in the event of a tornado. Rolling metal doors block off the gym and an adjacent set of restrooms that can withstand wind speeds of up 250 mph and 15-pound projectiles flying at 100 mph.
The building is also the first in the district to tout solar panels and a rainwater collection system, along with other energy efficiency measures.
Aside from those tweaks, some residents might recognize the building as the fourth incarnation of an existing design. Cross Oaks, Bell and Adkins elementaries represent the previous versions of the design.
It is not certain whether subsequent elementary campuses will conform to the design.