New Hemet El leader shares her ‘Eagle’ vision for the rebuilt campus
■ By Corey Evan / Reporter
Many locals shed tears as the original Hemet Elementary School campus was torn down in 2014. So as the Hemet Unified School District puts the finishing touches on its replacement, there are high expectations. The new principal of Hemet El, Dr. Kristi Watson, believes the school is poised to exceed all these expectations.
Having served as principal at Bautista Creek Elementary for five years prior, Dr. Watson is excited for what the new Hemet El has in store: “It’s quite an honor; I’m very excited for this opportunity. When I was approached and asked to take the lead on the project, I didn’t hesitate.”
Dr. Watson also has family connections to the old Hemet El: “My mom, her two sisters and my uncle all went to Hemet Elementary back in the ‘50s. So having this opportunity to do this as part of my family and as part of the Hemet community is really exciting.”
Rebuilding such a historical site as Hemet El has been challenging, especially as this represents integrating the old with the new. But Dr. Watson is confident HUSD has been exhaustive with the design, materials, furnishings, construction, educational programs and overall feel at the rebuilt campus: “As a matter of fact, that’s our school theme: ‘Bringing our history into the 21st Century.’”
New programs are being implemented at Hemet El including S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) program, and Project: Lead the Way. But its most significant new program, which is also new to HUSD, is the dual immersion program in association with the State of California.
“We kind of hear that these programs are popping up all over the state, and all over the nation,” said Assistant Principal Melina Serna. “We know that studies show that students who learn another language are better off in life than their monolingual counterparts.”
Already in place in the San Jacinto Unified School District, the program will immerse students in a second language (such as Spanish) and give them a chance to learn said language the same way we learn English. Dual immersion qualifies students to receive a special seal on their high school diplomas, which certifies they can speak the second language.
According to Dr. Watson, Hemet El will be a 1:1 technology campus. That means every student will have access to interactive devices, so all can be proficient in the core subjects as well as technology.
Hemet El’s new programs have already proven to be attractive to parents, even some from outside the district. Serna, who lives in Murrieta, plans to enroll her kids at Hemet El: “As a parent, it’s something I sought out for; I have my own daughter attending a dual language immersion program which is right next door in San Jacinto.”
Hemet El is expected to reopen with 670 students passing through the Heritage Tower on day one. At its rated capacity, though, the new nest can house 850 Eagle hatchlings as they learn to spread their wings.
Dr. Watson also recognizes that in rebuilding Hemet El, there’s no ‘I’ in ‘team’.
“I’m just one member of a very large team of people that have made this dream come back to life in our community.”
As happy as Dr. Watson is to lead Hemet El, leaving Bautista Creek was not an easy decision.
“The teachers, the classified staff, the families, the students – they were my family,” said Watson. “And having this opportunity, as wonderful as it was, I really had to think hard and… it was very bittersweet in leaving. I have felt nothing but support from not only my staff at Bautista Creek, but all the stakeholders. It was really wonderful and heartwarming.”
But some of her Bautista Creek loyalists – parents and teachers alike – are planning to follow her to Hemet El: “We have a few coming over with us for sure!”
For parents who wish to enroll their child at Hemet El, sign them up soon! Hemet El will reopen the very first day of the 2017/2018 school year, Aug. 7.
Dr. Watson also invites the public to the Hemet El rededication ceremony on Sept. 1.