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Chester County Press

KCSD breaks ground on new elementary school

05/29/2024 12:04PM ● By Chris Barber

The Kennett Consolidated School District broke ground on its upcoming New Garden Elementary School in the company of students, faculty, high school band and administration.

The ceremony, on May 24, took place behind the existing elementary school, which was opened in 1957.

This original building is destined for demolition with the opening of the new structure planned for 2026.

The groundbreaking was largely ceremonial inasmuch as the actual construction process has been going on for several months now.

All around, the ground has been turned, dust is flying, large scooping trucks sit in the wait, and protective fences are already in place.

Superintendent Dusty Blakey, who will be retiring in July, presided over the agenda as his successor, Kimberly Rizzo Saunders, stood by to, “learn and listen,” as she said.

Blakey told the audience, which included most of the elementary school student body, “This is an investment in our future – in our future education. So as this building symbolizes our future, Dr. Saunders will be here to symbolize that as well.”

Board President Dave Kronenberg took over the announcing duties and asked the young audience, “How many of you are in first or second grade?”

Kronenberg then answered his own question by saying that the younger students in the group would be completing their elementary education in the coming building.

Board Vice President Vicki Gehrt and New Garden Principal Elizabeth Weaver followed Kronenberg with enthusiastic endorsements of the future building.

Gehrt was the president of the school board in 2019 when the members began to consider the project to replace the district’s two old elementary schools.

In pursuing the future of the two, they considered options of renovation versus replacement. In the end, they chose replacement because, while renovation would be cheaper, the fixed-up buildings would still hold the infrastructure of the past and still carry with them the need for more repairs in the future.

Greenwood Elementary School, like New Garden, was opened in 1957. It, too, will undergo demolition with the completion of its new building.

District CFO Mark Tracy had announced at the May board meeting that Greenwood is running slightly behind New Garden in the building process as they work out complexities of the planned onsite sewage system.

He also enumerated details of the finances and building process to the audience.

The young students, who sat on the ground watching, were well behaved and generally silent through it all.

However, when Tracy announced that the building cost is $58.2 million, they let out a loud, “WOW!”

He went on to honor the many professionals who had contributed to the final plan and financing including lawyers and architects.

The high point of the ceremony then was the turning of the dirt, with board members taking shovels and putting on faux helmets. They were followed at the digging line by a group of students and by corporate individuals who were part of the business of the project.

The board recently elected Rizzo Saunders as its new superintendent, and they flew her in for the ceremony and visit from New Hampshire, where she is currently the superintendent of schools.

The New Garden Elementary School sits on New Garden Road in New Garden Township on a 25-acre site. The new building will have a size of 105,000 square feet and will hold 30 general classrooms for a capacity of 660 students.