JONES — Jones High principal Carl Johnson is quick to admit how stressful the last three years have been and what patience he has learned from the whole ordeal.
But when he's seen people filing in-and-out of the school's new gymnasium all weekend, he knows the stress and frustration were worth it.
The difference between the pride the Jones students have this year compared to the last couple of years is like night and day. In fact, Johnson said it's not even fair to try to compare just how different things are.
“When you had to do the things we had to do, it's just tough to explain,” Johnson said. “We do know this is a special place.”
It's a place the Longhorns had to wait for, and a place the Longhorn faithful deserve.
On Dec. 10, 2007, the old Jones High was destroyed by a fire. There were plenty of makeshift classrooms all around the facility following the fire, including the gym. The gym was one of the few places not touched by the fire.
It wasn't the same, obviously. Johnson and superintendent Mike Steele put in a lot of time and a lot of effort to give their students a place to call home again, though the old gym still remains.
They looked at other facilities. They didn't duplicate what others had done. They took bits and pieces from different layouts and merged it into one.
That effort was finished in August when the new school was opened. Not just the school, but a new state-of-the-art gym called the Stevens-Chase Center.
“We've made a lot of transitions in the last couple of years,” athletic director Dave Martin said. “It comes with our expectations. We expect to be the best.”
The students never stopped believing that, either. Despite the tough times, Johnson said only one student left because of the fire. The current enrollment is the largest Johnson has seen in his 11 years at the school.