WILLMAR — For an elementary school groundbreaking, it made sense to have a group of children be the first to wear hard hats and grab the gold shovels.
The kids, the Willmar School Board and school administrators turned over shovelfuls of dirt at the groundbreaking for Willmar Public Schools’ new school building Monday afternoon.
The real work starts next week, when Quam Construction of Willmar starts site preparation and underground utilities work. Surveying at the site is to start today.
The school is part of a $52.35 million building program approved by the district’s voters in May 2015.The school site is along Lakeland Drive Southeast, across the road from the Kandiyohi County Family YMCA.
At its regular meeting following the groundbreaking, the School Board awarded the first contract for the project, for site preparation, to Quam Construction. The value of the contract is $959,920.
During the groundbreaking, Superintendent Jeff Holm said, the groundbreaking of a new school building was a big day for the school district and the city of Willmar, as the building would stand in the city for generations.
Board Chairwoman Liz VanDerBill thanked people who worked on the project from the initial planning task force to the committee that worked to promote the referendum.
She also expressed gratitude on behalf of the board for the dedication of retired Superintendent Jerry Kjergaard, Holm and Finance Director Pam Harrington.
“Most of all, we’d like to thank the citizens of our district and the taxpayers for their supporting our children, their education and our building projects,” she said.
Willmar Mayor Marv Calvin attended the groundbreaking, too. “This is a very good thing for our community,” he said. “Thanks to Dr. Kjergaard and Dr. Holm for their leadership and vision.”
The school will house grades pre-K through grade 5. It will be the district’s third elementary school, which will alleviate crowding at the two existing schools. Currently, Roosevelt and Kennedy elementary schools each serve nearly 1,000 K-5 students. When the new school opens in August 2017, each of them will have about 650 students.
The school district’s building program includes building science classrooms at Willmar Middle School and gymnasium and physical education space at Willmar Senior High School. In addition, remodeling and maintenance projects will take place throughout the district.
R.A. Morton Construction Managers of St. Cloud has been hired to oversee the work on the major projects in the program. R.A. Morton is having contractors bid on individual portions of a larger project. Using that method, the district has awarded about two-thirds of the value of the Middle School work to Willmar area contractors.