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Ironton breaks ground on new schools

For Ironton first-grader Matthew Murnahan, Friday afternoon must have seemed a bit like paradise.

First, he got out of school, or at least school work, for part of the afternoon.

Then somebody gave him a shovel and a play hard hat and a little pile of dirt and told him to have some fun, if only for a minute or two.

“I think I’m helpful,” he said, when asked what he thought about his good fortune.

Matthew was one of nine children who got to break ceremonial ground Friday afternoon at the site of what will be the new Ironton elementary and middle schools. And while he may not have been too sure of the importance of the occasion, the moment was not lost on the older kids and the adults who assembled to celebrate the start of something big.

High hopes

In a few days, construction workers will begin pouring concrete and joining steel beams together to fashion new buildings that will someday house the city’s children during school hours.

Friday, those students got a front row seat for the ceremonial end of things. School officials bused students from all the district’s schools to the construction site for the event.

Seventh-grader Molly Sergent, whose essay on the importance of having the new school won the district’s essay contest, got to read her thoughts Friday to the assembled crowd.

“I think this means a whole lot to the community,” she said. “This will help Ironton catch up.”

Ironton School Superintendent Dean Nance was more emphatic.

“From the building pad behind this stage will come the most technologically advanced schools in the state of Ohio,” Nance boasted. “The architects have designed a complex that will meet the needs of youth in this community for decades to come.”

Ironton Board of Education President Jerry Rowe was a 1989 graduate of IHS. He said while many memories will be left behind, some of the less attractive issues students and teachers have complained about for years, such as lack control over the heating, will soon be forgotten.

And one guest speaker noted that even the weather cooperated for the groundbreaking.

“I don’t know of any other groundbreaking outside in November with this kind of weather,” Ohio School Facilities Commission Project Administrator Stacy Thomas mused. She said she hoped the students realized how fortunate they were in getting new schools.

“A lot of school districts failed to get a levy passed,” she said. Thomas said in the 10 years since the OSFC has been in existence, 537 new buildings have been built, 338 districts have been touched in some way, she said, by the state agency and its monies. Three hundred thousand students have been helped in some way through these construction projects.

Lauren Ball was one of the students who got a shovel and a hard hat.

“I’m excited,” the sixth-grader said.

Asked what she thought about getting new schools, she replied, “I think I’ll like it.”

Logan Gleichauf said he was glad for new schools, too. And something else made his day, something perhaps a bit more tangible for the moment.

“My favorite part was getting to dig (in the dirt),” he said. “ And we get to keep our hats.”

A day in the sun

Ironton Mayor John Elam issued a proclamation, making the day “A new age of academic excellence in the city.”

He was on hand Friday to present his proclamation to school officials.

The high school

A ground breaking for the high school will be at a later date. The new $48 million project should be completed by 2009.

Past and future

For Columbus attorney Richard Hudnell, whose law firm Peck, Shafer and Williams, is handling the legal end of the construction project, this particular job may tug at his heartstrings more than some others.

He is an Ironton graduate from the class of 1981. Now he is making his contribution to the school district he attended.

“It’s great that Ironton is finally getting its turn,” he said. “The best is being saved for last.”