(UVALDE, Texas) — Eulalio “Lalo” Diaz Jr. reminded the small gathering in Uvalde, Texas, that their community “is known as the tree city,” as the Uvalde Moving Forward Foundation announced their new elementary plans and schematic design.
Diaz, a representative of the Uvalde CISD Community Advisory Committee, said Tuesday that when a new elementary school is built in the community, a prominent feature will be a tree with 21 branches – one branch for each of the people killed at Robb Elementary School on May 24, 2022, in a mass shooting. Two branches will be larger than the rest and they will represent the teachers who were killed: Irma Garcia and Eva Mireles. Another 19 branches will memorialize each of the children who lost their lives in the adjoining fourth-grade classes that day last spring.
Diaz said that trees show “strength and stability.”
Robb Elementary, closed since the shooting, will be torn down. The new school, yet to be named, is scheduled to be open by fall 2024.
“This [tree] will be the anchor to hold up the school,” said Diaz.
Uvalde:365 is a continuing ABC News series focused on the Uvalde community and how it forges on in the shadow of tragedy.
The committee worked alongside the Uvalde school district’s Moving Forward Foundation, a nonprofit tasked with collecting funds for the construction of a new elementary campus in the school district. The committee – composed of educators, parents and other community members – was set up to provide input and bring differing perspectives to the design and needs of a new $60 million elementary school.
Committee co-chair Natalie Arias was born and raised in Uvalde and said she has a unique perspective because she is an educator at Uvalde High School and a mother of four children.
“It was very hard,” Arias told ABC News. “I grew up going to school at Robb Elementary. I loved Robb. It was some of the best times of my life.”
Specifically, it was hard for Arias to come to terms with the new location because she worried there would be a gap of schools in the west side of the city, a neighborhood known to be underserved than others in Uvalde. But after weeks of discussion, the committee realized the final site selection would be beneficial because it borders Dalton Elementary and therefore, students can share facilities.
The proposed school will comprise three buildings: the academic wing with a library, dining hall and gymnasium. The committee drew inspiration not only from native oak trees that can be found throughout multiple neighborhoods in Uvalde, but other elements of Uvalde’s fabric including Texas sunsets, monarch butterflies that migrate through the city and honey production. Each of these elements will impact the color scheme throughout the school to be “whimsically, kid-friendly” according to the committee.
“One day I will have a discussion with my children [when they are older] and explain how their beautiful school came to be,” Arias told ABC News.
The committee will present the schematic design to the school district board for approval on Monday, April 17.
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