MONTPELIER, Ohio - It was a day like no other in recent Montpelier history.
Joined by Gov. Bob Taft, nearly 1,000 people - about one-quarter of the area's population - gathered yesterday to dedicate Montpelier Exempted Village Schools' new building, which will open this week.
"It's fantastic," said Doug Shoup, father of three Montpelier students. "It's all anyone is talking about."
The school, yet to be named, is part of a legislative initiative in Columbus to upgrade the state's dilapidated and out-of-date school buildings.
So far, about half the school districts in the state have either completed their upgrades or have projects under way, said Jennifer Schlosser, a spokesman for the governor.
The Montpelier project began in 2002 when voters overwhelmingly passed a bond that generated $5 million. The state kicked in another $23 million to cover the cost of the 173,000-square- foot building, which is in Montpelier in Williams County. Construction on the school began 18 months ago.
"This building is awesome," school board President Denver Bechtol told the audience at the beginning of a 30-minute ceremony in the school's gymnasium. "It involved decades of planning and dreaming."
Mr. Taft, celebrating his 64th birthday, called the project a "labor of love" and congratulated the community on its success.
"[You're] sending a very strong message to the children of this community - that their education is very important to their future. [It] will further improve the academic achievement of your students," he said.
Other local officials followed the governor.
State Sen. Lynn Wachtmann (R., Napoleon) challenged students, teachers, and parents to make the best of the opportunity provided by the new building.
State Rep. Stephen Buehrer (R., Delta) likened the new structure to a cathedral of learning and noted it took hundreds of events and circumstances to make the project work.
Beginning today, students will move from the PK-3 school into the new building on Brown Road, followed by the middle school students and, later in the week, the high school students.
The three older schools will be closed, according to Superintendent Pamela Campbell.
She said the school board decided it was better to build one large building rather than three.
"It's good continuity for the kids, and the younger kids get to know the older kids," she said.
Mr. Shoup said the school project has had a positive impact on Montpelier.
"I've lived here all my life. This has brought people together more than anything I've seen," he said.
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