Students at Jefferson-Lincoln Elementary School filed outside Tuesday afternoon, each one wearing a bright-yellow hard hat in anticipation of the ground-breaking ceremony.

“This is really a celebration for them, too,” said Superintendent Mark Davalos. “We’re happy to make it happen, but it’s for the kids we have now and the kids we will have in the future. This is such a great opportunity for us. We are excited and of course we can’t do this without the kids. This is what it’s for — that’s why they’re here.”

The construction is part of a $74 million bond measure that passed last year. Two new kindergarten through sixth grade facilities will replace Jefferson-Lincoln and Fords Prairie elementary schools. Centralia High School will also receive a full remodel as part of the bond.

Davalos addressed the crowd, thanking the staff, the bond committee and voters who supported the bond measure.

“Our teachers will have a more modern and appropriate place to engage our students,” Davalos said.

Principal Kelli DeMonte addressed the crowd as well.

“Building a new school brings so much excitement,” DeMonte said. “We are so excited, as a Jefferson-Lincoln team, as we go through this new adventure.”

A few of the first-grade students weighed in with their thoughts after the ceremony as well.

“It’s going to look ‘school cool,’” said first-grade student Joshua Flores-Moran, coining a new term.

First-grade student Jaina Roche added, “It’s going to be beautiful.”

David McBride, project manager from OAC Services, Inc., said his team plans to tear down the covered play areas at both Fords Prairie and Jefferson-Lincoln this weekend.

“They’re getting going, trying to set up the construction site,” McBride said. “It’s really just minimal, to set up what they need to for erosion and stormwater protection and bringing in some trailers. We haven’t really quite got started with any of the real work. They’re just getting things set up at this point.”

Students will continue to attend classes at Jefferson Lincoln while the new school is being built next door.  

Fords Prairie will hold its ground-breaking ceremony on Tuesday, May 8 at 1:45 p.m.

“We are starting now at both sites,” McBride said. “The intent is to work through the end of next summer. What that means is, they will be building in where the existing filled spaces are through this summer and next school year, while school is being occupied next school year. After school’s out next school year, we are going to be doing a big move to get out of the old buildings. Then next summer those buildings will be torn down and they will finish the construction where the existing buildings are, so the new play fields and parking lots and whatnot.”

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