It was cloudy and there was even some rain, but that didn't dampen the spirits of the approximately 500 people who attended the grounding ceremonies for the middle school building projects on Thursday.
More than 225 sixth-graders and another 50-75 community and staff members attended the ceremony at Glacier Creek, 2800 Military Road. The event began at 1:30 p.m. with the Glacier Creek band performing three songs.
The Glacier Creek ceremony took place southeast of the school in the area where the new fifth-grade wing will be added. Groundbreaking will officially begin next week and construction is expected to be completed in August 2014.
Seven speakers -- Superintendent Don Johnson, Board of Education member Annette Ashley, Yes Committee co-chair Kathy Nieber-Lathrop, Findorff vice president Brian Hornung, Bray Architects' Matt Wolfert, Glacier Creek principal Tim Keeler and sixth-grader Jason Yang -- addressed the crowd for approximately 15 minutes.
Ashley, who has three children in the district, thanked a number of groups.
"I'd like to give a heartfelt thank you to my community as a parent and for all the other parents in our district whose children will feel the positive effects of the referendum,'' she said. "Thank you for making education a priority.''
She reminded the audience that the two questions passed with the largest winning margin in the history of the state for a referendum that size. In November, more than 68 percent of voters approved a $59.8 million referendum question to expand Glacier Creek and expand and remodel Kromrey. In addition, nearly 64 percent of voters approved a $797,000 operational question.
"It symbolizes a community that believes education provides opportunities,'' she said. "It symbolizes a community that understands that investing in education in our future as well as our children's future. And it symbolizes a community that is vibrant and growing.''
Keeler talked about how excited he was that the building project is about to begin.
"We can certainly use the extra space, especially with the new gymnasium and for cafeteria seating,'' he said. "I am most excited for the students who will benefit from the new facilities and potential for various program improvements.''
Following the short speeches, those seven along with Assistant Superintendents George Mavroulis and Tom Wohlleber, BOE president Ellen Lindgren and Community Relations Specialist Perry Hibner participated in a formal groundbreaking event.
A second ceremony was held at Kromey starting at approximately 2:30 p.m. More than 100 sixth-graders came out to watch the festivities along with at least 100 adults. Among those in attendance were City Administrator Mike Davis, Dane County Board of Supervisor Sharon Corrigan and Middleton Police Chief Brad Keil.
Johnson, Ashley, Nieber-Lathrop, Hornung and Wolfert all addressed the audience, along with Kromrey principal Steve Soeteber and student council members Brandon Dunk and Bryson Bauer. The Kromrey band also performed three songs before the ceremony began.
“At Kromrey we are excited and thankful,'' Soeteber told the crowd. "When construction equipment started to arrive on site this morning, the reality of a new school building took our excitement about the future to an even higher level. The Kromrey that all these talented and supportive people have envisioned has gone from being on paper to reality.''
Soeteber also reminded everyone the remodel and additions to Kromrey will address what he believes is the school's biggest weakness.
"We have amazing students, supportive parents and community and a talented staff,'' he said. "Now with the new Kromrey on the horizon we will have the total package. We will continue to dedicate ourselves to working hard to provide the best middle school experience possible for our students.”
The biggest cheers at the Kromrey event were reserved for Wolfert, who reminded the sixth-graders that by December 2014 they will be eighth-graders and moving into the third floor of the middle school wing.
"You literally will be on top of the world,'' he said to the students.
Lindgren was able to attend both ceremonies, while BOE member Leeanne Hallquist, who has a child at Kromrey and another at Elm Lawn, attended the Kromrey celebration. Lindgren was still buzzing 24 hours later about the groundbreaking ceremonies.
"This is another reminder of what a great, supportive community we have here in MCPASD -- lots of work went in to getting this referendum passed, but these ceremonies were all smiles and laughter and thanksgiving,'' she said. "Though the weather was gloomy, we were all alight with delight. Let the construction begin."
Fifth-graders will begin attending both schools in September 2014. This will also help alleviate overcrowding at all six of the district's elementary schools. Glacier Creek will also get a new gymnasium, more cafeteria space and extra classrooms. A three-story middle school wing is part of the Kromrey remodel. When that opens, most of the old school will be demolished and a new gymnasium and field will go in that area.
Bray and Findorff were the district’s main partners in the remodel of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) area at Middleton High School last year and also will be putting a four-room addition on Sunset Ridge Elementary this summer.
Findorff is one of the state’s leading builders with more than $300 million in construction annually. Bray was founded in 1962 and is one of the leading K-12 educational planning and design firms in the Midwest. The firm has designed K-12 projects worth more than $500 million and covering more than 3.5 million square feet over the past decade.
"Bray and Findorff have been great partners throughout this project,'' said Hibner, who coordinated much of the logistics for both ceremonies. "There were more than 20 staff members from the companies here today, which speaks to their level of commitment to the district. We are thrilled to work with them.''
Below is a 5-minute video that includes highlights from both groundbreaking ceremonies.