The South-Western City School District will hold groundbreaking ceremonies next week for the first phase of its elementary school project.

The South-Western City School District will hold groundbreaking ceremonies next week for the first phase of its elementary school project.

In the first phase, new buildings will be constructed at Prairie Norton, Harmon, Alton Hall and Monterey elementary schools.

The $250 million Ohio School Facilities Commission project will be done in three phases and includes the replacement of 13 elementary school buildings and Franklin Heights High School as well as upgrades to Buckeye Woods and Darby Woods elementary schools.

The groundbreaking schedule for the first four schools are:

* Prairie Norton, 1 p.m. Wednesday, May 29.

* Harmon Elementary 1:30 p.m. (current building site) and 6 p.m. (at the future site for the new building on Gantz Road at Frank Road), May 30.

* Alton Hall, 9 a.m. May 31.

* Monterey, 1 p.m. May 31.

Students at each school will be participating in the groundbreaking ceremonies, said Sandy Nekoloff, the district's director of communications and community relations.

"We will have 30 shovels and 30 hard hats on hand at each ceremony so the students in each class will be able to shovel some dirt and have their picture taken," Nekoloff said. "We really wanted the students to have a part in the event."

Parents, district administrators and staff, elected officials and representatives from the OSFC and the project architect SHP Leading Design and construction manager Ruscilli Construction will also be attending each ceremony, she said.

"We're inviting the community to attend the groundbreaking events," she said. "It really is an exciting time for our district, because now people will actually be seeing work beginning on the projects."

Two ceremonies are being held for Harmon to allow students to participate in the event at their school and to be able to attend the program with their parents later that evening at the new school site, Nekoloff said.

South-Western has made a land swap agreement with the Franklin County commissioners.

The district is receiving a 16-acre portion of about 79 acres the county owns at the intersection of Gantz and Frank which will be the site for the new Harmon building.

In exchange, the county will receive the existing Harmon building and about 11 surrounding acres.

The district originally planned to construct the new Harmon school adjacent to the old building. After Harmon students moved into the new building, students from another school would have temporarily moved into the old Harmon school while their new school was under construction.

District officials decided against trying to operate two schools simultaneously on the site with the heavy traffic on Frank Road.

The old Harmon, Prairie Norton and Monterey buildings will serve as "swing sites," for students from West Franklin, Prairie Lincoln and Richard Avenue schools respectively while their new buildings are constructed.

The buildings constructed during the first phase are expected to open in fall 2014.