Dark clouds rolled gently overhead on Friday afternoon as J.R. Irvin Elementary School Principal Josh Roberts cut the ribbon for the newly rebuilt campus’ official opening. Despite sprinkling rain, MISD campus officials were eager to get started.

“We’re so excited that you’ve joined us,” Midlothian Independent School District Superintendent Lane Ledbetter said, kicking off the block party event. “This innovative facility exemplifies the type of learning environment we want to create for all students across the ISD.”

J.R. Irvin Elementary, now located at 600 South Fifth Street, is Midlothian’s seventh elementary campus. The 92,000-square-foot facility hosts grade levels K-5 with a capacity of 750 students.

“We believe we have a facility that will inspire learning for decades to come,” Ledbetter continued.

Naming and vision

The original Irvin Elementary School was named for J.R. Irvin, who served the district in a number of capacities between 1945 and 1973, including as principal of Midlothian High School.  

“Midlothian High School was originally housed at the former J.R. Irvin campus,” explained Kyle Kehrwald, communications coordinator for MISD, “so when he retired, the district named the building for him to honor his legacy.”

The school board decided to retain the name at the newly rebuilt elementary because of Irvin’s impact and respect among the community.

Irvin has since passed, but his daughter Jo Anna Irvin Pruitt was able to attend the ceremony with her husband, Sid C. Pruitt.

Bond

On Nov. 9, 2016, Midlothian residents voted in favor of a $268 million bond for MISD to help manage the district’s development, renovate its facilities and provide needed technology and security improvements. 

According to MISD’s website, the J.R. Irvin rebuild is one of many projects in the “growth management” domain of the 2016 bond budget. Growth management encompasses $208 million of the bond, or about 78 percent of the total package. 

Other growth management projects being tracked by the Bond Oversight Committee include the construction of a ninth elementary school and a third middle school, additions to Heritage High School, renovations to current facilities and other upgrades.

Board president Matt Sanders said the board heard a bond update on Monday.

“Within the last four years, we’ve successfully managed a bond savings to our taxpayers of $55 million,” Sanders said to applause. He noted that community trust and support had made it all possible.

Still to come

At the ISD’s Aug. 19 board meeting, the former Irvin Elementary campus was renamed The MILE, or Midlothian Innovative Learning Experience. 

“This campus will house programs that will allow students at both high schools to pursue their passions through INCubatoredu - Entrepreneurship, Cisco Cybersecurity, Project Lead the Way Aerospace and Civil Engineering, and an industrial kitchen space for Culinary Arts,” Kehrwald said in an email.

The district believes that innovative learning experiences like those provided by The MILE are crucial to student success — now and when entering the workforce. The facility will be open for the 2020-2021 school year.

Midlothian’s third middle school was officially named Earl & Marthalu Dietrich Middle School at the May 20 MISD Board of Trustees meeting. The name honors Earl and Marthalu Dietrich, who taught at MISD for 31 and 25 years, respectively. The facility is scheduled for completion in 2020.