By Nancy McGill
Thayer Central primary and preschool students took one step closer toward their future March 10 as they watched and participated in the groundbreaking to transform the district’s main campus because by fall, all Thayer Central students will attend classes on the campus.
The groundbreaking is the first of three phases identified by the district to continuously improve the school community.
The district’s administration, board of education, facilities committee, developers for the project, Ayars and Ayars, and performance criteria developer Clark Enersen Partners were represented at the ceremony behind a lengthy row of shovels topped with hardhats.
The line of planners behind the shovels showed smile after smile as Superintendent Drew Harris, Ayars and Ayars and Curt Mumm of the school board addressed the crowd of mostly primary and preschool students, and transitioned into Words to Build On, a program developed by Principal Kurk Wiedel to reinforce the school community’s positive strengths.
“It’s more than buildings,” Wiedel said of the upcoming construction that will include eight new classrooms. “It’s what you do inside. I’ve spent 50 years in this community. The intermediate was built when I was in eighth grade. Here, we’re investing in our kids and their future. It was a community effort.”
All together, approximately 120 students will join the campus in the fall. Sixty alone are eligible for preschool.
Wiedel’s program was words of encouragement written on slips of white paper and carried one at a time by students, who buried them in the center of the groundbreaking hub with everyone watching.
“You don’t know if this day will ever come,” he said.
At the end of the program, Wiedel was publicly recognized by the crowd.
Harris said he brought Wiedel’s name to the podium because he had planned the groundbreaking ceremony, a tradition of his to make events memorable for kids.
Harris said bringing students together on one campus has been on the district’s radar for eight years. It’s hard for him to believe the plan has come to fruition.
“It’s exciting. This morning, the kids were walking the loop. That’s the last time they’re going to do that,” he said. Same with the flag raising.
The facilities sub-committee of the Thayer Central Board of Education spent months in meetings and hearings weeding through a process on how to improve the learning environment without facing opposition from a majority of voters who had earlier nixed a bond.
The board and its sub-committee worked on an intense selection process to mold a design-build team that would meet the district’s improvement criteria for the project’s cap of $3.5 million.
Three phases were born from the process with the first that includes adding a storm shelter, restroom and classroom updates, infrastructure, lighting and a slew of other improvements to bring the campus into the present.
The parking lot between the Intermediate and high school buildings will be affected, Harris said.
“There will be no parking on the east half of the lot, and we’re having to adjust the bus loading zones,” he explained.
It will be two months of inconvenience for school patrons under the aggressive construction schedule, but in September, students will walk into a brand new building, Harris said.
“Today is a great day in the history of Thayer Central Schools,” Rick Hintz, who sits on the board of education, said. “This project has taken many turns and affected many people in the process. It is nice to see that we, as a community, can have differing viewpoints, but still come together and agree that the education of our students is a very high priority. This building project is a necessary step for Thayer Central to adapt the ever-changing dynamics of education today.”
Hintz also thanked everyone who was involved with the planning, and implored the community to stay focused on the “betterment of our children and our community.”
From the facilities sub-committee, Scott Harms said they are looking forward to seeing the plan come together.
“It was great teamwork,” he added.