Glancing out of the spacious windows that allow natural light to illuminate her office, Thomas Jefferson Elementary School principal Candace Wilkerson couldn’t keep a smile off of her face.
Just like her office, the future of her school is bright. Wilkerson was able to move in to the new $11 million, 85,000 square-foot building two weeks ago, marking a new era for elementary education in the county.
“It was surreal,” Wilkerson said of the move. “We’ve been in mobile three years. Since my first year as principal, that’s been my experience. That last day of school, I did cry, because we’re finally headed to a more normal situation.”
Set to officially be completed by the end of July, construction at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School continues, but on a much smaller scale. Punch list items – that is, small “to-do” tasks such as fixing broken tiles – are all that remain on the agenda. The halls are wide and airy, the floors waxed and shiny.
“We’re pretty much done with the interior of the building,” Louisa County Public Schools clerk of the works Bob Moore said. “It’s wonderful. I’m glad that it’s here and ready for them.”
“We’re one step closer every day,” LCPS director of facilities David Szalankiewicz said. “It’s a little cleaner and a little brighter!”
Members of the school’s staff were given a tour of the building on the last day of the school year, which was their first chance of seeing the progress made since their previous tour in December. Except for minor housekeeping alterations, the school looks as if it’s ready to be open tomorrow. It was during that tour that Moore said he attained a full grasp of how big of a difference even the smallest of details will make for teachers and students.
“It was very emotional,” Moore said. “You wouldn’t think people would attach to a building like that. I was shocked. You’ve never seen a group that was so happy to have a bathroom in their own room or in the hallway.”
“They were tough conditions, and they weathered it, the parents, the kids, the teachers, everyone,” LCPS assistant superintendent for administration Doug Straley said.
“Watching them up at the trailers, they were coping up there,” Szalankiewicz said. “They’ll come here and realize ‘We don’t have to go outside to go to the bathroom anymore!’”
To read the entire story, see the june 19 edition of The Central Virginian.