Students grabbed the gold shovels, stuck them in the ground and tossed a bit of dirt Wednesday, Jan. 25, to signify the groundbreaking of a new and upgraded Oak Hill Elementary School.
The ceremony, however, was also a construction update, as the school is already 40% complete and on time for an August opening.
“It means a lot because with the new schools comes excitement, along with the technological advances,” Principal Dr. June P. Jones said. “The teachers are excited, and the students are excited. It’s bittersweet to see the building torn down, but there are so many great opportunities on the new campus.”
Dr. Barbara Jenkins, superintendent of Orange County Public Schools, was among the guest speakers. She told the students in attendance to say “19.8 million” and then told them that was how many dollars it would take to build the new school.
“It means your parents and the community think you are worth every penny,” she said. “All of this is for you.”
She also got a commitment from the students to take care of their new facility.
Kat Gordon, Orange County School Board Member Kat Gordon spoke, as well.
The new school is being built east of the current building. OCPS designed the property to keep the original curb cuts from Hiawassee Road and to align the car line along the north side of the campus. The bus loop is to the south of the building. There is space for 12 portables if enrollment demands call for it.
Students performed for the crowd and then everyone gathered around the ceremonial dirt pile and took turns plunging gold shovels into the mound and tossing the dirt in the air.
The original OHES was built in 1974 with a capacity of 322; there are currently 521 students enrolled. Oak Hill was No. 96 on the list of 136 aging schools that citizens voted in 2002 to replace as part of the district’s half-penny sales tax. This tax was renewed in 2014.
The old building will be demolished in June at the end of the school year.
Contact Amy Quesinberry at [email protected].