By Sarah Naron

Messenger Reporter

GRAPELAND – After more than a decade of planning, one failed attempt at passing the necessary bond and continuing to tirelessly press forward, the Grapeland Independent School District is finally watching a long-awaited dream come true.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held Friday, March 23 at the site of the future Grapeland Elementary School building.

According to GISD School Board President Eddie Childress, construction on the facility will be getting underway next week.

“Everything’s going to be updated as far as technology and security,” Childress said of the new building. “Everything is the newest that we can get for the bond funds we have.”

Childress explained that security will be among the main difference between the school’s current and future buildings.

“Where we’re at right now, there’s many accesses to the elementary,” he pointed out. “There will only be one access; you’ll go through the front door and have to sign in and all that good stuff. You’ll have to get a visitor’s pass in an outer office before you can even enter the school.”

Childress said school will be in session in the new building in Fall 2019.

“The completion date may be a little bit before that, because we have to move and all that good stuff,” he said. “But we’re going to be ready for school in the fall of 2019.”

GISD Superintendent Don Jackson expressed excitement about the groundbreaking and moving forward with the project.

“Today is a great day,” he said. “It’s the culmination – well, really, the beginning – of a whole lot of planning and preparation.”

Jackson recognized the efforts of both the school board and former GISD Superintendent Gregg Spivey.

“I’ve had a chance to see the work that goes in behind the scenes and everything that has to be done before you get to the finished product,” Jackson said. “And I think it all starts with a goal or a vision of what we want our educational system to look like here in Grapeland. And what better place to start than at the beginning, making sure our students get the right foundation by having a great building; a great environment?”

Jackson expressed his belief that the new building will “help us to improve the culture of the way our kids learn.

“There’s a lot of pride, I think, in walking into a fresh, clean building,” he pointed out. “I’m so happy, because our kids now will have anything that every other child has. I guess it’s like when you move into a new home and you’ve been living in an older house that didn’t have the amenities of the newer house. It’s just a sense of pride.”

Jackson also expressed gratitude for the security updates which will be made.

“These kids will be behind locked doors, and people who have evil thoughts and evil minds won’t have access as easily to them,” he said. “They’ll have to go through locked doors and have to be buzzed into the campus. That’s really a great thing, I think.

“We live in a great community, but it doesn’t take but one person with the wrong mindset to ruin a whole lot of lives,” he pointed out.

Jackson believes the building will be an asset not only to the students and staff of GES, but to the community as a whole.

“Some people lost faith in our education system because our building couldn’t pass the eye test,” he said. “You know, if you walk in and look at it, you think, ‘Wow, my kids may deserve better than this.’ And some people said that. But I hope that those people who are here and choose to take their kids elsewhere will take another look at us and give us a chance.”

Jackson anticipates that the new building will help GISD “move our children to a higher level of expectation.

“I already think we have a good system of teaching and learning,” he said. “But it really is going to be nice to be in a building where they can just thrive even more.”

Sarah Naron may be reached via email at snaron@messenger-news.com.