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Ground will be broken this summer on a new school in Uvalde, Texas

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Tomorrow marks one year since 19 fourth graders and two teachers were slaughtered inside an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. Texas Public Radio's Camille Phillips has been following the plans to build a new school. And here's where we want to warn you that this story contains a graphic description of violence against the children.

CAMILLE PHILLIPS, BYLINE: On May 24, 2022, Uvalde Justice of the Peace Lalo Diaz had the horrific task of identifying the bodies of the children and the teachers that died inside Robb Elementary.

LALO DIAZ: To me, the floors are all blood, you know, I see red floors.

PHILLIPS: Diaz is now co-chair of a committee to help architects find a location and design for a new school. He says Uvalde families need to have a fresh start in a new location.

DIAZ: We wanted it to be fun and exciting and make it a good environment and then, of course, making it safe.

PHILLIPS: Most students of the old school are now in a makeshift space - an old elementary school that had been converted into administrative offices. But late this summer, the school district will break ground on a new building to replace Robb Elementary. Diaz says it was important to him to join the committee to make sure the Hispanic community - especially the west side of Uvalde near Robb - was represented.

DIAZ: This is the first school that we're going to build that actually matches the demographics of our community and that is built around it.

PHILLIPS: At a presentation to the school board in April, architect Jeff Rodriguez said elements representing Uvalde were incorporated into the design, like the colors of papel picado - a type of decoration used in Mexican celebrations - and symbols from nature.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JEFF RODRIGUEZ: Beautiful sunsets, the honeybees, the monarch butterfly migratory route that comes right through Uvalde.

PHILLIPS: The new school is designed around an interior courtyard so that students will have a protected outdoor space. And it will only have three exterior doors. Diaz described a special feature to the school board that's at the center of the school. Stretching two floors and visible from the library and the courtyard will be a steel tree to honor the memory of the 21 victims.

DIAZ: It's going to have two large limbs representing the two teachers and 19 smaller limbs representing the children.

PHILLIPS: Diaz says the tree symbolizes the strength of Uvalde. The old Robb Elementary is set to be demolished, but for now, it still stands silent as 21 white crosses keep watch. Diaz says it will be just as important to carefully plan what to do with the old location as it is for the new.

For NPR News, I'm Camille Phillips in San Antonio.

(SOUNDBITE OF SAULE KILAITE'S "SEA OF THE SOUL") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Camille Phillips covers education for Texas Public Radio.