CLASSES in public elementary and secondary schools opened yesterday but it was a bit more special for the school children of Barangay Ermita, Cebu City.

More than 400 of them walked into brand-new classrooms without fear of being late or being hit by vehicles.

Barangay Ermita finally opened the Cebu City Central Extension School.

"Nalipay mi kay naa nay eskwelahan diri. Di na mi maglakaw sa akong mga bata ug layo padung City Central. Wa na miy daghan dan nga labangonon (I'm happy that we finally have a school here. My children and I don't have to walk far to go to City Central. We don't have to cross many roads)," said Marcelina Pautan, 39, in an interview yesterday.

Pautan previously had five children going to the City Central main campus.

Now, three of them—grades 1, 2 and 3—won't have to endure long walks and cross busy roads.

The new school is located at the back of the Ermita Barangay Hall. It offers Kindergarten and grades 1, 2 and 3 classes.

Painted in sky blue, white and yellow colors, the school is a four-storey, 12-classroom facility with each room equipped with a lavatory and ceiling fan.

The Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (Rafi) constructed the P17-million school building, which stands on a 1,042-square-meter lot purchased by the City Government for P10 million.

Like Pautan, 36-year-old Rowena Bacus said she is grateful that Ermita already has its own school.

Thankful

"Mapasalamaton kaayo mi kay sauna sige ra jud mi'g lakaw sa akong mga anak padung City Central. Kuyaw kaayo para sa mga bata kay daghan kaayo mig labangonon.

Karon, wala na na (We're very thankful because my children and I used to walk to City Central. It was very dangerous for the kids because of the roads we had to cross)," she said.

Bacus has three children—grades 1, 2 and 3—who are now enrolled in the extension school.

Second grader Kristina Cripe, for her part, said she is also happy that the barangay now has a new school building.

Duol na lang kaayo among eskwelahan sa among balay. Pwede na ko di na magpahatod sa akong mama (The school is just near our house. My mom doesn't even need to walk me to school),” she said.

With the start of the operation of the school, Rafi's Education Development Unit Anthony Dignadice asked the students and the teachers to protect the facility.

“The edifice is really beautiful. But it needs proper maintenance because this is not just for this year. Our dream is for this building to last for many years,” he said during the ceremonial flag raising yesterday.

Dignadice also asked the parents to cooperate in maintaining the structure.

For the students, he asked them to study hard.

“The best way we can show gratitude to our donor is to perform well. There's no reason not to perform well because the school is so near,” he said.

Records of the Department of Education (DepEd) Cebu City Division showed that some 50 students from Barangay Ermita dropped out of City Central School in the last school year because of the distance and financial burden.

City Central School Principal Lyra Illaga said that the extension school will have eight teachers, all from the current pool of teachers in the main campus.

The school will have one section for kindergarten, three for grade 1 and two for grades 2 and 3.

Dream

Dugay na namo ning damgo ug karon natuman na gyud (This has been a long-time dream and now it's a reality),” said Ermita Barangay Captain Felicisimo “Ipok” Rupinta, dating the dream to as far back as the 1950s.

It took time to be realized, he said, because of funding problems and the lack of area.

Rupinta said that the barangay and the City are planning to build another school building in a nearby 1,340-square-meter lot so that they can offer more grade levels.

He is currently negotiating with the lot owners for its purchase.

The barangay is hoping for the school to become independent in the future and name it Ermita Elementary School.

In July, Rafi is scheduled to inaugurate the new school building and officially turn it over to DepEd and the barangay.