Seven-year-old Carter Lawson didn’t hold back May 23, pushing a shovel with all his might into a dirt mound just outside the new Powers Elementary construction fence.
A dozen other silver shovels followed the young student’s lead as ground was broken on the project.
It was a moment 18 years in the making, said Amherst board of education president Teresa Gilles.
She traced the origins of the project back to 2000, when the public headed to the polls to vote through funding to build Amherst Junior High School. That support held steady in late 2016 when the junior high bond issue was extended to pay for a new PK-3 elementary next door.
“We are so grateful to our community for choosing to invest in our students and our community for our future,” said Gilles, who was humbled by the hard work of volunteers since 2015, when planning for a new school began. “In return, we will continue to make wise decisions with our resources and learn to listen to our community needs.”
Beth Schwartz was principal at Harris Elementary, which was demolished earlier this year to make way for the new school. She is also principal at the current Powers school on Washington Street — which will be torn down next summer — and will take the lead when the new Powers opens its doors.
“On behalf of our school community, we are so thankful to our board members, the staff, our volunteers, families, and every single resident who supported this project and our students,” she said. “The support you have show provides our students and staff the tools that we need to do even more amazing things.”
Amherst mayor Mark Costilow also briefly spoke.
As an excavator passed behind him in the fenced-off zone, the mayor said the hard work is only just started and will continue long after Icon Construction crews have cleared. The most important work will be done by teachers who pour their hearts and souls into students.
Mary Miller was a guest of honor at the groundbreaking ceremony.
She is the daughter of school namesake Fred Powers, who served as principal for many years and shaped the district’s direction. He died in 1983 at age 95.
The new Powers building is on track to open in August 2019. With a price tag of roughly $32 million, it’s financed in part by Ohio Facilities Construction Commission money and in part by the 2016 property tax issue.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.