Kids help ‘unwrap’ Amherst’s new $31.5M Powers Elementary School

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Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times
Principal Beth Schwartz tears up, thanking all involved in making the new school a reality.

JASON HAWK
EDITOR

What a great late Christmas present. About 950 kids helped “unwrap” a new $31.5 million school Monday as winter break ended and classes resumed.

Amherst’s brand new Powers Elementary School, located on South Lake Street, was dedicated Sunday in an emotional ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Principal Beth Schwartz couldn’t hold back tears.

“I cannot thank the Amherst community enough for making our new school happen,” she said.

Voters’ support on a bond issue in November 2016 proved residents understand the connection between quality facilities and quality education, she said.

Board of Education President Rex Engle said the old Powers school on Washington Street, built in the 1950s, served Amherst well.

The memories made there “will always live with you and with the Amherst school district,” he said. “But it was time for a change.”

For teachers to have the most impact, schools must keep pace with the times, he said.

The new Powers is an investment in Amherst’s children, and Engle promised returns on that investment.

While officials took time to thank ICON Construction, GPD Architects and the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission, the ceremony was really about the children who will walk Powers’ hallways for generations to come.

“In so many ways, the rest of their lives will begin to be determined in these very halls,” said Sarah Kucbel, president of the Powers parent-teacher organization.

Yes, the school will be a place for academics but also where kids in preschool through third grade will come of age, forging friendships and learning about themselves.

“I can’t wait to see those students walk through the doors tomorrow. We’re excited. I know they’re excited,” said Superintendent Steven Sayers.

With floor space roughly equal to the size of two football fields, the new elementary school was built with flexibility in mind.

Eleven classrooms at each grade level open into common areas. Garage-like-doors can be rolled down for security or up to create a “neighborhood” feel, while movable walls allow teachers to designate smaller quiet spaces or larger ones for group work.

“It’s been so neat, walking through the building, to see how teachers are laying out their classrooms,” Sayers said.

Some teaching partners are creating “front porches” outside their classrooms, with libraries and whiteboards that push into common areas. Others are arranging desks, stools and shelving units — everything is on wheels — to create focus groups.