Marfa students head back to school

Aubrey Ceniceros is accompanied to her first day of first grade at Marfa Elementary School by her mother Samantha Salgado and baby sister Sophia. (photos by Maisie Crow)

MARFA – Superintendent Oscar Aguero was back in his element. At 7:45am he was shaking hands, bumping fists and high-fiving elementary students who paraded into the cafeteria to begin the first day of the 2019-2020 school year this Monday. Marfa High School Principal Dr. John Sherrill and Marfa Police joined the welcome wagon as kids unloaded from the school buses and arrived on foot with parents in tow.

Kindergartner Lucilla Pippen hugs Marfa Police Officer Anahi Garcia on her way into the school cafeteria. Elementary school students were greeted on the first day of classes by local police officers and school administration.

Teryn Muench helps out MISD as students head back to school by accompanying parents and kids as they cross the street.

Across campus, Sherrill and Aguero arrived to greet a bustling auditorium of high schoolers. As students settled in for the orientation, newly minted ninth grader Samuel Salgado told The Big Bend Sentinel he had a good summer in South Texas, but was still kind of excited to be back in school. After spending time with his grandparents and attempting to build a go kart, Salgado was eager to get into his welding classes, which would accelerate his kart’s construction.

Aguero, now in the midst of his fifth first day with the Marfa school district, told the auditorium a bit of back story. When he first arrived to the Marfa schools, they were rated “academically unacceptable” by the Texas Education Agency, receiving a failing “F” grade.

The superintendent thanked his students – in the past few years, the school has turned its grade around, achieving a high C, 79, two years ago, and last year improving leaps and bounds to reach a B grade of 87. Then he encouraged them to press on toward this year’s new goal of 91, an A rating. He was counting on them to challenge themselves, because their academic performance would change the school’s grade.

Marfa High School senior Samantha Jimenez in class on her first day of school.

Classes began, and as Marfa’s 341 students settled into the new year, Aguero visited every classroom to greet teachers and students and offer encouragement for the coming year.

Kindergarteners told him they were busy learning manners. Third graders in Montessori 1-3 were being paired with first graders, tasked with helping them navigate throughout the school year.

Elementary music classes and the band program are being fully revived this year, after Aguero had previously shut down the program to cut costs when it was struggling to keep a music teacher and band director on staff.

On Monday morning band director Amber Strach bustled around her music room, preparing for classes and worrying that the school only had half the number of recorders they needed. The dire financial constraints currently faced by the district would be laid bare that night at the school board’s budget meeting.

Senior Keanna Gates-Harkrider tunes her flute at band practice during Marfa High School’s first week of classes.

By the time Marfa High School students had settled into the rhythm of classes, Dr. Sherrill’s morning announcements echoed through their halls. After the pledge of allegiance, pledge to the Texas flag and a moment of silence, Sherrill concluded, “Make it a great day or not – it’s your choice.”

Freshman high school student Jordan Rodriguez lifts weights with the Marfa High School football team during afternoon practice. The first game of the season is Friday.

MISD Superintendent Oscar Aguero picks up third grade teacher Caroline Coale’s book that she made when she was in third grade. Coale keeps it hanging in her classroom.

Montessori teacher Cheri Aguero reads to students on the first day of school.

Montessori kindergartner Abby Clifton on her first day of school.

Kindergartner Eli Mackie contemplates a turn on the monkey bars at the school playground on the first day of school.