Students at the London Independent School District have always faced the same situation when it comes to figuring out plans for high school.
Since the district had only offered grades kindergarten through eighth, the traditional norm had involved transferring to Tuloso-Midway or Flour Bluff.
However, the long awaited arrival of a high school for London ISD has come with the first day of school starting this past Monday. Many concerns and questions had to be addressed along the way for the school to be established. As in similar situations, one question at the top of the list was “What about football and athletics?”
“As long as we had the interest and enough kids, we were going to do our best to have different athletic teams,” Principal Clay Campbell said.
Earlier last month, Campbell and school officials hired Robert Moreno as the high school’s athletic director and future football coach. Moreno comes from Taft High School, where he was offensive coordinator and head basketball coach.
“I heard about the opening from a friend of mine who has a child in the school district,” Moreno said. “It was a hard choice once I was offered the job. I left a good situation at Taft. But I just couldn’t pass the opportunity to start a program from scratch. It’s very exciting.”
Campbell estimated roughly 60 applicants applied for the job. The hiring committee interviewed five candidates for the position.
“Coach Moreno’s knowledge and experience were big reasons for his selection,” Campbell said. “He came into the interview with a ready plan for the program. We could tell he has a good work ethic.”
London High school will open with 25 freshman and add a new grade level each year. The class will be made up of upcoming eighth graders and a reasonable amount of transfer students. However, a few upcoming eighth graders from the junior high opted to transfer to other area schools.
“We lost a few to Tuloso-Midway,” Campbell said. “They wanted to be a part of established athletic programs.”
Some of those students are expected to come back to the new school after a few more grade levels are added in the coming years. Further growth is expected in time, as current enrollment for seventh grade and lower is estimated at 60 students per class. Campbell said he believes athletics will help that growth.
Moreno plans to open things up with boys and girls basketball immediately, with intentions to apply for a UIL varsity district in February when re-alignments occur. Volleyball and track will also be apart of the initial programs. Moreno says there has been a strong interest in soccer and baseball. However, those sports will be added after a few years. He intends to add two to three coaches to his staff each year.
The football program will begin at the junior high and come into the high school after that.
“We’ll start with a team of combined eighth and seventh graders,” Moreno said. “About four or five of the freshman have shown interest to play when we get started. For now we’ll have them focus on speed and strength until we get started. Next year we will begin with a junior varsity.”
The school is expected to be a 1A school once all four grades are set and grow to a 2A after a few years. That means Moreno may have to compete against some familiar faces.
“My parents teased me about that,” he said. “Taft isn’t that far away, so I know it’s a possibility we may end up in the same district someday.”
But that doesn’t appear to affect his plans to establish London’s program.
“I love the challenge,” he said. “This is by no means a stepping stone job for me. I’m here to make our athletics successful for years to come. I have extreme confidence I can do that.”
Editors Note: This story corrects an error made in the print edition, in which London High School was mentioned to be opened in the coming weeks. London ISD began their school year this past Monday.