The new Nette Shultz Elementary School opened its doors on the first day of school Thursday morning with state-of-the-art learning features for its students while honoring its history with the community.
Parents and their children began crowding outside the school’s entrance as early as 7 a.m. holding hands, carrying school supplies and taking those memorable “First Day of School” photos. When doors opened at 7:25 a.m., parents walked in to drop off this school year’s new Shultz Mustangs and left with bittersweet emotions.
Jennifer Haught left the building in tears after dropping off her only son, Jameson, for his first day of kindergarten on the same grounds where her father, Rick Coleman, attended elementary school 61 years ago.
Shultz Elementary is the replacement campus of Woodrow Wilson Elementary, which had stood at that same location on Hanover Drive since 1960. Haught said her father started second grade at Woodrow Wilson Elementary the year it opened, and now her son is one of the first kindergartners at Nette Schultz Elementary.
“I’m just emotional,” Haught said. “Once a Mustang, always a Mustang.”
In 1958, Nette Shultz, a home economics teacher, donated this land to Denton ISD to build a new elementary school. Instead of naming it after herself, she suggested the district name it after former President Woodrow Wilson, whom she admired and wanted to honor. Woodrow Wilson Elementary School officially opened in 1960 with 183 students. Now, Shultz Elementary has an estimated 600 students enrolled.
Julie Zwahr, the district’s chief communications officer, said the district’s decision to rename the school after Shultz was based on the Board of Trustees and the superintendent’s philosophy of naming local schools after local heroes.
Denton ISD began construction for Shultz Elementary in 2019 right behind Wilson Elementary, which was demolished earlier this year to pave a new parking lot. The school district approved a bond proposal in favor of a $750.5 million capital improvement plan that would allow Wilson Elementary to be replaced with a new campus on the same property.
“We were very blessed that the Board of Trustees and our citizens passed a bond package that allowed us to build this beautiful, nice home that we’re in now,” said Principal Matt Preston, who previously taught fourth grade at Wilson Elementary for eight years. “There’s been a lot of hard work that a lot of folks have put into this over years.”
Preston said the campus was designed with “collaboration in mind.” Collaboration spaces and classrooms were designed not just for children but for adults. The campus has created a space, much like a mini science lab in the middle of each hall for grades second to fifth, that students and teachers from different classrooms may utilize for collaborative reading and project-based learning.
The school is still under construction, with construction workers in front of the campus working on adding a second parking lot and a green space for planting trees. Once construction is finished later this year, students will have access to playground spaces for different grade levels, including an athletic playground near the basketball court.
“The opportunity to open a brand new campus, but to have an established culture of strong educators that are already embedded into this,” Preston said. “This community and these teachers and these kids have deserved a space like this for a long time.”
Amid the ongoing pandemic, Shultz Elementary is moving forward with complete in-person learning and recommending the use of face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Hand sanitizer stations are located in every hall of the building, and teachers will continue to ensure students sit 4 feet apart in the cafeteria.
While Shultz Elementary finishes up its last add-ons, one thing still remained unclear. Its green and blue mascot does not appear to have an official name.
“I think that may be something that we have to get going,” Preston said.