Beaver breaks ground for school

LISBON – “Today does not mark the beginning, but another step in our opportunity of a lifetime,” said Beaver Local Superintendent Kent Polen at a ground-breaking ceremony Wednesday at the site of the future K-12 school.

Attendees gathered at the site of the former baseball complex on Bell School Road included school board members, teachers and administrators, as well as trustees from St. Clair, Madison and Middletown townships.

The steps on that road began 12 years ago, Polen said, when the district first reached out to the Ohio School Facilities Commission, which has agreed to pay $32.4 million of the $52.2 million construction cost.

Various plans for new elementary, high and K-8 schools were considered and rejected before voters finally approved the bond issue for a new school to house all Beaver Local students grades K-12 in a single building. When completed, the 234,000-square-foot structure will be among the largest K-12 schools in the state.

Polen said the new building will address the needs of the future for Beaver Local students, rather than the experiences of the past from teachers, administrators and parents. This doesn’t mean that input from members of those three groups didn’t go unheeded, however. He said many features found in the layout of the new building were inspired or affected by input received from faculty members who will teach in the new school once it is constructed.

“We have listened, and we have designed the building as such,” he said. “It will transform the way students learn and teachers teach,” he said.

Polen said people could expect to see heavy equipment in the area within the week to begin the first phase of developing the site, including work on underground utilities and the massive parking lot, which should be completed before winter sets in. “When we’re finished in December, you’re going to see the footprint of the building and the rough coat of blacktop,” Polen said. Weather permitting, work should resume in February or March of next year on the foundations of the structure.

Polen said the key words that he heard during informational meetings that were held leading up to the vote were purpose, passion and pride. “The building we’re going to build hits all three words,” he said.

The superintendent outlined the three distinct wings of the school, which will house elementary, middle and high school students, respectively. The school will also have two separate cafeterias, an arts and music wing, an auditorium and three gymnasiums, including a high school gym with nearly double seating capacity over the current one.

School board member Patrick O’Hara, who chaired the committee that promoted the bond issue last year before he was appointed to the school board, said the people who served on that committee with him deserved much of the credit for making the groundbreaking possible. “It was just an incredible bunch of people that I was honored to work with. I just can’t say enough about them,” he said.

O’Hara also credited the voters of Beaver Local district who believed in the need of a new school for all Beaver Local students. “Without them, this certainly wouldn’t be happening today, and we can’t thank them enough for supporting what we believe is the most positive step forward for Beaver Local ever,” he said.

When asked why the vote last March had succeeded when six previous efforts of the past 12 years had failed, O’Hara said the voters had recognized the time had come to build a school integrated with the technologies of the 21st century.

“The way education was done 10 years ago is drastically different from the way it’s going to have to be done in the future,” he said.