CLEAR FORK VALLEY — A major step toward building two new elementary schools in Butler and Bellville was taken Sunday, when officials and local residents watched at separate ground breaking ceremonies.
Clear Fork Valley School Board president Jim DeSanto greeted crowds on the grounds in Butler and Bellville. School officials and residents were lauded for their efforts to get a levy passed, then to work on finalizing details of the construction project.
DeSanto said the projects will bring 1,000 workers into the area. This means students will have safer, modern buildings, and the economic impact to the area will be large.
The Bellville and Butler buildings are over 100 years old. In Bellville, students in the 123 year-old building on the hill have to march to the lower building on Hines Avenue to get their lunches.
The area between the lower school building on Hines Avenue and the building on the hill in Bellville has been excavated.
Construction markers appear at both sites.
Bellville mayor Teri Brenkus said she volunteered for 10 years at one building, and it was difficult worrying about the safety of kids having to march to and from a lunch facility.
School board members grabbed shovels to help turn dirt in both ceremonies. Other local officials also participated.
Former Bellville mayor Darrell Banks, now Richland County commissioner, at both ceremonies led people in a cheer, spelling CLEAR.
Marilyn John, another Richland County commissioner, and State Rep. Mark Romanchuk also participated.
John said she “can’t spell like Darrell” but others at the Richland County offices are aware of his advocacy.
Romanchuk said “not everybody gets to open up a new building.” He also said he had never seen a crowd like the ones attending both ceremonies.
DeSanto, in officiating, pointed out two residents he said had much to do with the ability to build new buildings. They are Mindy Samson and Nicole Blakely.
Butler mayor Ken Kinley offered an invocation before both ceremonies. The Clear Fork High School band opened both ceremonies, with light music (Hang on Sloopy) and the national anthem.
DeSanto said he hopes kids will remember Sunday’s event, which he called a “momentous occasion.”
He credited superintendent Janice Wyckoff with being the person who ironed out snags in the process to be able to begin construction.