Ceremony marks start of Longfellow project
Asked to name the best thing about a new Longfellow Elementary School, second-grader Brooke Degen replied "the elevator." Classmates nodded in agreement. Nothing else came immediately to mind. But school board members, administrators, parents and...
Asked to name the best thing about a new Longfellow Elementary School, second-grader Brooke Degen replied "the elevator."
Classmates nodded in agreement. Nothing else came immediately to mind.
But school board members, administrators, parents and local dignitaries who attended the noon groundbreaking ceremony on the playground west of the current Longfellow gushed about the positives that will come with the construction of the new $8 million building, including more space and better technology. The structure will be built, noted event emcee Dan Beukelman, without raising taxes.
Among Friday's speakers were Beukelman, a member of the Mitchell Area Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors, Mayor Lou Sebert, Board of Education President Dana Price, and Longfellow PTA President Patti Brewster.
Beukelman said he and his wife chose Longfellow as their child's school because "Longfellow's a family," and he thanked Superintendent Joe Graves for having the foresight to put money aside for the new building, scheduled to be completed by fall 2010.
Graves wasn't a scheduled speaker, but was upbeat about the gala event.
"We've got 240 kids in yellow hardhats (and) 12 on shovels. We should be able to finish the foundation by the weekend," he said.
Sebert agreed, telling the crowd, "This is probably the biggest group I've ever seen at a groundbreaking."
When he asked "Are you kids happy about this?" the mayor was greeted with a resounding "yeah!"
Sebert said he is happy Mitchell is investing in education and community and he thanked the school board for looking to the future.
Brewster also thanked the board, Longfellow administrators and fellow PTA members.
"I'm so excited," she told the kids. "We're getting a new school!"
Price introduced school board members Brenda Freidel, Eric Christensen and Bob Everson, and made apologies for the absence of Neil Putnam, who was out of town on business as an officer of the Associated School Boards of South Dakota.
The planning for a new Longfellow has been an enthusiastic experience for the Mitchell community, said Price, who told students, "People are doing the happy dance because we're building this brand-new school."
He said Longfellow students have built a solid scholastic record during the current building's 75-year history. The Longfellow Task Force recommended building a new school "on the same site with the same Longfellow name. I think that's important because of the pride and the tradition they have," Price said.
He agreed with Beukelman's observation that Longfellow patrons are a family, and said he's looking forward to the next school program in 2010, during which students will walk from the old to the new Longfellow.
Principal Mary Wilson grinned as she carried an armload of student hardhats and said, "It's a nice occasion isn't it? Everyone's having a great time."
Wilson said former Longfellow Principal Ray Willard also briefly attended Friday's ceremony.
But it was the Longfellow students themselves who were the focus of the half-hour groundbreaking ceremony. Wearing yellow hardhats emblazoned with the words "Building Our Future," a group of young groundbreakers enthusiastically wielded golden spades while grownups watched.
As a wrap-up, all students trooped onto the playground and stood along an orange line that outlined the footprint of the new building. At a cue from a photographer shooting from a crane above, they waved their hardhats and gave a shout. Discipline evaporated as they next tossed colorful nylon discs onto the new building site.
Of her young class, kindergarten teacher Nancy Noess said, "They will be second-graders when the building opens and they're very excited to be a part of it."
Jeffery Hazard of Koch Hazard Architects, the firm that designed the new school, said "this is the most fun groundbreaking ceremony I've ever been a part of. It's exciting to see it getting started."
Puetz Corporation of Mitchell will handle construction management chores during the yearlong construction window.
Wilson said the construction workers will begin removing playground equipment in the coming week and students will begin using Doty Park as an alternative playground during construction.