While yellow, plastic hardhats swallowed their heads, Bolivar Primary School preschoolers manned big shovels in front of dozens of onlookers at the groundbreaking ceremony for Bolivar R-1’s Early Childhood Learning Center on Wednesday, Sept. 4.
The Early Childhood Learning Center, an estimated $5.5 million facility, is set for construction on district land east of the intermediate and primary schools.
Although the project’s roots go back through the years, it was finalized in April 2019, when around 80% of voters greenlighted a bond issue — a $6 million no-tax-levy-increase measure — to help see the facility come into fruition, along with potential expansions to Bolivar Middle School and a possible new high school practice track.
The facility’s initial plans include 12 classrooms, offices and a multipurpose room, which will help to accommodate a trending rise in student numbers, R-1 superintendent Tony Berry said previously at the August school board meeting.
“Today is a culmination of a beginning for a project that’s been talked about in our community for years,” said Paula Hubbert, R-1 school board president, at the ceremony’s beginning.
Hubbert said the project is a monumental task for the community.
She thanked past members of the school board, patrons of the district and people who worked to help get the April bond issue passed, which secured funding for R-1’s new building projects.
“We’re planting seeds,” Hubbert said, speaking figuratively. “This is for this group of kids and future preschoolers. They are the future of our community and our schools.”
After Hubbert’s words, Berry went on the microphone to address the ceremony’s crowd of supporters.
“When we look over here, and you look to your right — here’s the reason why we’re doing this,” Berry said, pointing to a cluster of BPS students waiting for their hand at groundbreaking.
Berry went on to give thanks to the project’s committee, R-1’s administration, the community and public speakers who advocated for the project.
“What we’re doing with early childhood education and the efforts you’re putting towards early childhood education are going to pay off in surmount in the future and in the near-future for our entire Bolivar family,” he said.
With that, the groundbreaking commenced as BPS preschoolers, R-1 board members, Paragon building architects and R-1 administration staff each had their turn at digging into the soon-to-be construction zone.
Construction itself will begin Monday, Sept. 9, according to Berry.
“They’re going to start mobilizing equipment Monday,” Berry told the BH-FP after the ceremony. “They’re going to get the models laid out and start stripping dirt right away.”
Berry said the new center is anticipated to open for the 2020-21 school year.
And the groundbreaking ceremony that kicked off the project, he said, was “amazing.”
“It just overwhelms a person with the amount of support this community is giving to us,” he said.
Hubbert offered her view, as well.
“Today was just a wonderful culmination of the efforts that have taken place in the past number of years,” Hubbert told the BH-FP.
She said R-1’s Early Childhood Learning Center had been in the district’s long-term plan “for decades, and we finally did it.”
“And to actually be here breaking ground on this preschool is fantastic,” Hubbert said. “But we are representatives of many people who came before us, and we’re just so grateful for our community that sees the need and significance of early childhood education.”