Bynum School gets more elbow room with new building

From a small site with a farm house and trailers, Bynum School has moved into a new state-of-the-art building with 33,000 square feet to spread out in.
Among many other features, it has sinks in every classroom, technology, administrative offices, a student activity center, a dedicated clinic, a separate detached building for its vocational program, including a woodshop and ceramic studio and classrooms, Executive Director Bill Maurer said.
The grounds also include a greenhouse and potting shed.
The contractor was Campbell Construction and the lead architect was T.J. McClure, a principal with Rhotenberry Wellen Architects. The school moved into its new quarters in July. A dedication is planned for Feb. 5.
The previous 4.1-acre site at State Highway 158 and County Road 60 is for sale.
The student activity center, Maurer said, is a major asset because now they have space to conduct graduation, programs, parent meetings and they don’t need to ask churches or other facilities to use their space.
One of those events is a speaker series. Jo Mascorro will present “So How Exactly is That Working for You? Effective Strategies for Responding to Challenging Behavior” from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Feb. 2 at Bynum.
“… It’s exciting that we can have everything we need right here, and also we are pleased that we have space in … our activity center that we can share with other nonprofits. … Our classrooms are just wonderful. We have space. Every classroom has its own restroom. We have three work stations in every classroom, plus the teacher has a laptop. Every classroom has walk-in closets, cabinets and a whole wall of counter space,” Maurer said.
Director of Development Tracy Bush said the building is constructed so it is easy to add on to.
“Hopefully next fall, we’ll have a pumpkin patch. Then there’s room for more greenhouses over there and on this side. … The sidewalk goes completely around the school, so they have a nice little walking path,” Bush said.
She added that the school nurse, registered nurse Frances Sanchez, now has a clinic where she can care for students in one spot. She has nurses from OC, Howard College, Texas Tech University Health Sciences, and UTPB rotate through for clinicals.
“It helps them get used to being around our population,” Bush said.
She’s also able to take a backpack on wheels, complete with flashing red light, with all her medical supplies to classrooms.
The school, which serves people ages 3 through adult, currently has 67 students and eight on a waiting list. Each student has an individual program plan.
Maurer said the building is programmed to accommodate 122, but more space is needed for special needs students depending on their abilities. They may use walkers, wheelchairs or other conveyances.
Tenneson, 8, said the new building is, “my favorite place on earth.”
Pristine, 7, said the facility is “great.”
“I like the windows,” she said.
Bynum School recently celebrated its 35th anniversary. Ten years ago on its 25th anniversary, a capital campaign kicked off, but Maurer said it did not meet its goal. About four years ago, Will and Mikell Abney and Don and Susan Evans chaired a campaign that achieved the goal of the new facilities.
“Both families have children with special needs. They worked so hard with our community and with Bynum School promoting our school that our capital campaign was a success and we were able to move into this state-of-the-art facility,” Maurer said.
Evans said he thinks the new facility shows the character of the Permian Basin.
“I just have to believe it’s got to be one of the finest facilities in this country for dealing with those with special needs. …,” Evans said.
He said Bynum is a place people should see if they’re interested in moving to the Permian Basin to raise a family.
“You may not be a family that has a child with special needs, obviously most are not. But to see what this region did for those that do have special needs it just gives you a look into the heart and soul of the community,” Evans said.
A second phase of plans for Bynum includes residential facilities. The school sits on 60 acres of donated land in Midland County at 5100 Avalon Drive.
“We have enough land here that we can accommodate residential facilities, but right now our focus is on our day students. Long term, we hope we can provide residential facilities so parents don’t have to send their children to Houston or Austin or distances away from home. There are a number of families in Midland and Odessa who currently have adult children in Houston at Briarwood,” Maurer said.
Class sizes are limited to 10 students. There currently are five classrooms with four teachers.
“We are adding an additional classroom and teacher. We are hiring another teacher and assistant and will be hiring additional staff for the 2019-2020 school year. In addition, we have our Vocational Department which is divided into three classrooms,” Head of School for Student Programs and Services Keri St. John said in an email.
Maurer noted that maintaining small classes is an advantage allowing for more effective instruction.
“With those 10 students, we have at least one teacher and one assistant so that’s two adults with no more than 10 students. We do have one or two classes that have two assistants, but that’s because of the needs of our students,” he added.
Job training is provided for students and they are taught how communication skills.
“We do job training for students who are able to do that. We do prevocational (training), working with them about communication, maybe math skills, how to interview, how to dress, personal hygiene,” Maurer said. “Then in the prevocational preparation, our vocational staff works with students to find out what they’re interested. Then … our vocational director tries to find a placement that meets their needs and their interests.”
Maurer said Bynum has had students accepted to Odessa and Midland College, enter the military and pass their GED test.