Although windy, chilly and muddy, the rain held off for the groundbreaking of the new Prairie Run Elementary and Big Walnut High School on Tuesday. For those who didn’t want to watch the live stream on the district’s Facebook page, attendees walked down a gravel roadway at the end of Kintner Parkway in Sunbury past a fleet of construction equipment to see former farmland already cleared for future academic and athletic facilities.
After the presentation of colors by Boy Scout Troop #701 and the Pledge of Allegiance by students of the month for the 2018-19 school year, Superintendent Angie Hamberg introduced district administrators and faculty, Facilities Director Doug Swartz, realtor Chip Carpenter, construction officials from Gilbane Building Company and VSWC Architects, along with the mayors of the two villages and representatives from the six townships that lie within the Big Walnut Local School District.
“What an exciting time it is for our community and our school district,” Hamberg said. “Thank you so much for all the work you’ve done to pass this ballot issue to approve the funding for these two new, much-needed schools for our children. At Big Walnut, our mission is to inspire and guide each student to his or her maximum potential, and these new facilities that we’re building will help us in that goal.”
The 60,000-square-foot Prairie Run Elementary will be built first, and enclosed by the end of the year, with an anticipated opening date of August 2020. The 325,000-square-foot high school will be enclosed by the end of 2020, and the anticipated opening date is August 2022, two school years after Prairie Run. In addition, Miller Drive and Kintner Parkway will be connected, and athletic fields, including a football stadium, will be mainly to the east of the schools.
Representing the class of 2023 at the groundbreaking was Grant Coulson, an eight-grader at Big Walnut Middle School.
“My class will be the first ones to graduate from our new high school,” Coulson said. “Our new high school and elementary school together will propel my class and classes after mine into nothing but success.”
Brad Schneider, president of the Big Walnut Local Schools Board of Education, and a 10-year resident of Sunbury, spoke of community.
“The reasons to come to our fine community?” Schneider said. “Our citizens are friendly, we’re close to a thriving city — but not too close, and our schools have a reputation of delivering a quality education at an economical cost. Our community is always there for one another … to help each other achieve.”
Tara Shelby, chairperson of the Community for Eagle Pride, which supported the ballot issue, gave the closing remarks.
“I’m so excited to see what’s going to happen to Big Walnut in the next few years,” Shelby said. “We’re not going to stop growing.”
Students of the month, past and present board members, and other administrative staff and dignitaries then donned hardhats and posed with ceremonial shovels wrapped in ribbon with Big Walnut’s red and yellow colors.
Drone footage will be posted to help show the construction progress.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0906 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.