A little rain and wind couldn't keep the shovels idle Jan. 11 during the groundbreaking ceremony for Grandview Heights Schools' facilities project.

Several groups -- including students, teachers and principals; school and community leaders; representatives from companies involved in the upcoming project; and residents -- had the chance to scoop up a pile of ceremonial dirt during the event, held in the Grandview Heights HIgh School gymnasium.

The real movement of dirt is expected to begin around Jan. 27, when the first phase of the project -- construction of a new grade 4-8 building -- will begin, Superintendent Andy Culp said.

Fencing will go up at that time and the Fairview Avenue turnaround will be closed, he said, as will the parking lot off Oakland Avenue and west of the Grandview Heights High School gym.

The route middle school students take to the high school will be reoriented; they'll have to cross Oakland and walk on the sidewalk opposite the school before using the crosswalk to access the high school building, Culp said.

Middle school students walk down Oakland to the high school for music, foreign language and some math classes, he said.

The new 4-8 building will be constructed in the space between the current Edison Intermediate/Larson Middle School and the high school.

Students will continue to attend classes at Edison/Larson through the construction of the new school, which is expected to be complete by summer 2021.

The second phase of the $55.2 million facilities project will involve a major renovation of the high school building.

During that phase, high school students will attend class in the new 4-8 building.

They will move back into the high school when renovations are completed in December 2022, and students in grades 4-8 then will move into their new school.

The Edison/Larson building will be razed and site restoration will occur between December 2022 and June 2023.

The district will continue to update its facility planning tab on its website, ghcsd.org, Culp said.

Monthly "hard-hat" video updates will be offered along with time-lapse video of the 4-8 building's construction, he said.

"This is going to be an amazing, new and renovated learning and collaborative space, full of incredible learning spaces designed to inspire students and gathering spaces designed to welcome our entire community," Culp said.

Yet last weekend's ceremony was about more than just the new and renovated buildings, he said.

"It is about celebrating the process and the people who brought us to this historic point," Culp said. "A project like this can only be achieved through collaboration with a community that is committed to being a national leader in education, a community that puts our students first and a community that has the foresight to make a generational investment and commitment and pay it forward."

The ceremony included remarks from sixth-grader Lexy Smith and senior Sela Simmons.

"My classmates and I are looking forward to the additional learning opportunities a well-planned-out school like this will provide," Lexy said. "Students may use these more organized learning facilities more efficiently and this will help us focus more on school assignments and homework."

She referred to specific elements planned for the new school that her classmates have mentioned as their favorites, including improved lab equipment and a new cafeteria, as well as "a new, polished building."

Simmons was among the students who participated in facility meetings to offer their ideas for what the new and renovated schools should include.

"Although I will not be here to experience the new 4-8 building and the renovated high school, I can confidently say this project will bring changes for our district that will be incredibly beneficial to all of us," she said. "We sat down to try to make sure the renovations would not frustrate academic performance but would provide a comfortable environment that will improve everyone's personal performance.

"One could say I'm actually jealous of those who will get to use the new (and renovated) buildings," Simmons said.

Before the ceremony began, sixth-grader Emina Osborne reflected on the upcoming project.

"It's really exciting to think the new school's going to get built," she said. "Everybody's looking forward to getting to move into a new school."

Edison/Larson is a great school, Emma said, but it will be nice to be able to sit in class without an occasional drip of water from a leaky roof.

She said she's most looking forward to the new cafeteria.

The project is suddenly becoming real for Edison/Larson students, assistant principal Shawn Hinkle said.

"It's kind of snuck up on them after all of the talk about a school facilities project," he said. "This ceremony and the fence going up will make them realize things are getting started."

Edison/Larson staff have been planning for the project, outlining measures to ensure student safety and planning for the reduction of parking at the school site as well as losing much of the school's playground area, Hinkle said.

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