Students and staff members have already begun making the new Camey Elementary home, but soon community members will be invited to be a part of the experience.

Camey Elementary School will host a fundraiser pancake breakfast and silent auction from 8:30 to 11 a.m. Feb. 7 at the new campus, 4949 Arbor Glen. Tickets are $6 for adults and $4 for children eight years old and younger. Tickets may be purchased by calling 469-713-5951.

“We knew the community wanted to see the new building, so this is a great opportunity to do that and help raise money for the school,” said Julie Nelson, principal. “There are some extra things we need for the school, and we’re hoping this event can help us purchase those items.”

After 38 years in its old building, Camey Elementary opened the doors to the new school Jan. 5. Some of the new features include enhanced safety, more windows and an open design.

“Parents, community and staff members were all part of the design process for the new building,” Nelson said. “Designs started right after Sandy Hook, so a main focus was the safety of the students.”

Camey now has a panic button in its front office that, when activated, closes and locks hallway doors leading to classrooms. There is also bulletproof glass on the front doors, more than 50 cameras across the campus and the gym was built to withstand winds of 450 miles per hour.

“We also got new software to monitor the school through the cameras,” Nelson said. “There are more doors in the new building and more levels of security. There are more steps involved to gain access to the school.”

In the first weeks back from winter break, students participated in tornado, fire and lockdown drills. Nelson said the staff wants parents to feel safe leaving their children at the school.

In addition to the safety features, Camey has more outdoor access, more windows and an open design.

“A lot of research shows that outdoor access helps with learning,” Nelson said.

The new school’s cafeteria has floor to ceiling windows that lead to what will soon be a landscaped area. Nelson said the school is hoping to partner with home improvement stores to plant trees, bushes and flowers.

The school also has bigger classrooms. Nelson said in the old building classrooms were 100 square feet smaller than state regulations, which led to more discipline issues.

“The new school is big enough to get away from the crowds. We have room to breathe now,” Nelson said. “We anticipate that discipline won’t be as much of a problem now.”

David Stephens, a second-grade student, said he liked that his class now has its own bathroom, and he enjoys the “wiggly tables.”

In an effort to make the school feel warm and inviting, officials chose a color scheme of yellows, blues and greens. There are also pods that connect classrooms. The pods are filled with movable furniture.

“I love the furniture,” said Sabra Armstrong, a fifth-grade student. “The tables put together like puzzles and the chairs are round on the bottom.”

Nelson said the pods are used for working in groups, indoor recess and students who are working independently.

“Teachers are still playing with the idea of the pods,” Nelson said.

Right now there are 475 students at Camey, and the new building will be able to house between 700 and 800 students.

“Our new school is like a museum,” said Alayna Hensley, a second-grade student.

In order to begin the new semester in the new building, teachers came in over the winter break to get classrooms in order. Nelson said some high school students helped teachers pack, and community members donated food during the move. She said the school had its holiday party Dec. 19 and on Dec. 29 teachers were back in the building for the move.

“The main things have been unpacked, but there is still work to be done,” Nelson said. “I have a great staff, and this wouldn’t have been possible if the teachers didn’t have great hearts.”

Nelson said the school is holding the pancake breakfast fundraiser in hopes of purchasing more movable furniture, physical education equipment and other items.

“Moving into this new building was a huge jump, and we have a lot that we want to do in this new space,” Nelson said. “This is the best job in the world. I’m excited to see what’s to come for Camey.”

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