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Ground broken on new Warren Elementary School

A line of 14 students stands by shovels to initiate the groundbreaking for the Warren Local Schools building project Monday afternoon at the site for the district’s new elementary school, which will go up next to the middle school building on Warrior Drive in Vincent. (Photo by Michael Kelly)

VINCENT — Under Warrior-blue skies about 200 people gathered Monday afternoon to mark a Warren Local Schools milestone – groundbreaking for a new elementary school, the first physical presence of the district’s $63 million building project which eventually will provide students with a new high school and an extensively renovated and expanded middle school as well.

It’s the first new school built in Washington County for at least 20 years, and it marks the culmination of a decade or more of effort by Warren leaders to provide the district with modern physical learning environments.

Missy Kemper, the school district nurse, brought her granddaughter, 5-year-old Harper Fickiesen, a student at Little Hocking Elementary School. “It’s an exciting, amazing thing for our community,” she said.

Cindy Wallace, who’s lived in the area for 30 years, has a granddaughter who is a junior at Warren High School. Another granddaughter, Jozelyn Wynn, a third-grader at Warren Elementary School, was one of 14 students chosen to participate in the groundbreaking ceremony.

“I voted for the levy, and I’m glad it passed,” she said.

Students, parents, community members and officials wait for the groundbreaking ceremony to begin Monday afternoon at the site of the new Warren Elementary School. About 200 people attended the event, marking nearly two decades of effort to get new buildings for the Warren Local Schools District. (Photo by Michael Kelly)

The building project was made possible by a levy passed in May 2017 – the seventh attempt at persuading voters to finance new buildings.

Wendy McCarthy worked on one of the levy committees a few years ago and stood looking for seats under the white canvas pavilion set up for the occasion. With her were her daughters Cassidy, who attends the middle school, and Kelsey, 9, who goes to Warren Elementary.

“This is great for the community and the kids,” Wendy said. “It’s important for them to have a safe place to learn.”

“It’s exciting to see it come to life,” Cassidy said, and Kelsey added, “It’s gonna be cool.”

Crews have already roughed up the ground where the building will go up on a site just south of the middle school on Warrior Drive, on a high spot overlooking forested hills. The building is due to be finished in time for the 2020-2021 school year.

Students dressed in Warrior blue wait to be called forward to hold shovels at the groundbreaking for the new Warren Elementary School on Monday afternoon. The students were chosen by the principals at each of the district’s schools. (Photo by Michael Kelly)

The ceremony drew representatives from Fanning Howey, the architecture and design firm working on all three buildings, and Barton-Malow, the construction manager at-risk. The Warren board members attended, as well as state representatives Jay Edwards and Don Jones and state Sen. Frank Hoagland.

The project funding is being shared between local taxpayers and the state, with the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission paying 62 percent of the cost. Kimberly Murnieks, director of the state Office of Budget and Management, attended, and noted she herself is a Warrior.

“I’m from the Warren class of ’89, and I still have family in the district,” she said. “I am so excited.”

Jones said as a former teacher he found the opening of a new building something profound.

“Being a teacher, I spent 23 years in the classroom, I know facilities make a difference,” he said. “These young people are going to get to experience something many of us never had – a new building.”

Warren Local Schools Superintendent Kyle Newton talks to Joyce Crum, a fifth-grade teacher at Warren Middle School, and her granddaughter Melanie Rhodes, a sophomore at Warren High School, after the groundbreaking for the district’s new elementary school Monday afternoon. (Photo by Michael Kelly)

Superintendent Kyle Newton thanked the many people who had a direct role in getting the building project through the vote, the design and planning and into physical reality.

“I think about how we got here, the Warrior nation fought 20 years for this,” he said. “This project will change our future.”

Newton noted at the board meeting last week that a significant number of local contractors were successful bidders on the elementary project.

The high school building project comes next, with bids expected to come in May.

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