A small population with big school interest. No one seems to know just how many people live in Avalon, Texas, a rural community about 50 miles south of Dallas. The U.S. Census Bureau has “no record” of Avalon on its website. Information on state and county levels did not prove any more fruitful. And some local residents tell you that when it comes to a population count, they are “just guessing” at somewhere between 150 and 300.
But while Avalon’s population count may be in doubt and small, its pride and interest in their school is not. The most recent proof of that is Avalon’s new Multipurpose Center, for its 250 students in prekindergarten to grade 12. Designed by Architect Rick Crandall and built with a 12-foot stem wall, this Monolithic Dome measures 124-feet diameter by 25-feet tall with a total height of 37-feet. It features seating for 720, a full-size basketball court, four locker rooms, a front foyer concession, and bathrooms. The beautifully stuccoed exterior includes a synthetic glass-block entryway and an eye-catching, copper-colored roof.
Less time and money than estimated
With Monolithic’s Alden Porter as Construction Manager, work on the dome began in January 2002, at an estimated construction cost of $85 per square foot or $1.2 million and an estimated completion date of January 2003. Crews from both Monolithic Constructors and Dome Technology completed the shell, and Monolithic Construction Management supervised the finishing. According to Alden Porter, the construction crews and subcontractors worked well together.
That cooperation, together with a few other factors, resulted in a completion cost of $50,000 below budget and a completion date two months earlier than estimated.
Other factors that also contributed toward saving construction time included placement of bathroom facilities against flat, rather than curved, interior walls; air conditioning units placed above bathrooms instead of in the ceiling; and the use of metal studs, that are faster and easier to work with, instead of red iron structural steel.
In a way, the dome’s copper-colored roof fits into this category as well. Originally, Avalon chose a white fabric for its Airform. But, fortunately for the school, Monolithic had a higher grade, copper-color fabric available that they offered for the same price. That copper color is strikingly similar to Avalon’s orange and white school colors.
Avalon’s nearness to and familiarity with the Monolithic Dome Multipurpose Center completed for Italy High School in 2001 made Avalon’s decision to go with a Monolithic Dome fairly easy. School Superintendent David Del Bosque said, “We went over and really looked at Italy. Then David South came and made a presentation; so did Rick Crandall and Alden Porter.
“We looked at the cost of a traditional structure versus a dome,” Del Bosque continued. “And we were really impressed with what the long-term savings would be — utilities, maintenance, and that kind of thing. I personally was concerned about safety for students: the stability of the building in case of a storm.
"This is the safest structure anywhere here,” he said. “We plan to use it also as a community storm shelter. We’ll contact the Red Cross, get it certified as a shelter, and make arrangements for somebody here in the community to have a key to open it up in an emergency.”
According to Del Bosque, all students will use the Multipurpose Center — from prekindergartners to twelfth graders — for Physical Education and special programs, as well as athletics. He said, “In our opinion, there’s no use having a beautiful building like this and only using it for athletics.
"I’m hoping to have a summer recreation program that will use the dome,” Del Bosque continued. “You know how our summers are so hot. This (the dome) is air conditioned. We’ll have an optional, extended year program that will run from 8 to 12:30. We’ll coordinate that with a Federal free lunch program from 12:30 to 1 p.m. Then we’ll open the gym from 1 to 4. So, we’ll have a full day of activities for the kids in the community. I think it will be terrific. We intend to have volleyball, basketball, board and card games.”
Del Bosque said that Avalon’s seven-person school board and the administrators and teaching staff are “still exploring” additional possible uses of the dome. So far, these include one-act skits and plays presented on a portable stage, graduation ceremonies, and special school and community events.
School as the community’s center
Brenda Speer, Avalon’s high school principal, described the school as “the center of our community.” She said, “Avalon is not incorporated. We have just a few businesses. But those businesses are very supportive; they help pay for special school programs. Our parents are very supportive, too. So, I guess you could say the school is our community.”
Asked about the response of Avalon residents to the dome, Del Bosque said, “The community is excited. During construction, people drove by here all the time, checking on its progress. People wanted to know when we were going to open and when we would have our first game.”
Avalon plans an open house for November 14 and their first basketball game on November 15. They are inviting government officials and local dignitaries to both. Del Bosque hopes to have a Congressman or two at the Avalon Eagles’ first game in the dome. He said, “We’ll stop the game after the first basket, get the ball autographed, date it as the first to go in the bucket at the new gym and retire it.”
A tradition of school pride
Because it’s so small, rural and unincorporated, not much has been recorded or written about Avalon. But what you can find talks about schools that date back to the 1880s. For example, James R. Worsham, who became Avalon’s school superintendent in 1965, reported that the first Avalon school was built in 1887 and has always been supervised by dedicated people.
That first school has an intriguing name and legend attached to it. It’s called Push College.
Kenneth Wilson and his wife have lived in Avalon since 1941. Asked what he knew about Push College, Wilson said, “I know the rumors, and it wasn’t a college at all. It was a grammar school in a one-room schoolhouse, southeast of Avalon. They claimed — and I think this part is a rumor — that it got that name because they would load the building up, pull it with a team, push it up hills, and push it into place at whatever location they wanted it.”
Rumor or not, the Push College story demonstrates just how dedicated to education Avalon’s early settlers were. Apparently, that traditional interest continues.
Wilson, who lives just across the road from the new Multipurpose Center, said, “We have no city limits. We’re just a spread-out community, but we pay attention.”
He added that he and his neighbors like the new center. “You bet, we sure do,” Wilson said. “Inside is just beautiful. I told them, I don’t know if they oughta let ‘em play on that floor or not, it’s so pretty.”