"Hooray for us," said Waltham District Superintendent Kristine Eager as she joined Utica village and school board members in groundbreaking ceremonies Thursday for the new $10 million new school building on Route 178, south of U.S. 6.
Once completed, the new facility, expected to be in open for classes by the 2019-2020 school year, will consolidate the current Waltham north and south facilities.
Earlier this year, Eager explained the consolidation will save the Utica district money in the long run by only requiring maintenance on only one building and will lead to better efficiency with regard to resources and faculty that wasn’t possible with two separate school locations. She said selection of the site by the district's board was made following a long, careful investigation process.
“It was affordable and centrally located between the two buildings,” Eager said in January. “There’s a lot of positives to it and we see it as sort of a gateway into our community.”
Eager said consolidating has been an often discussed topic by the board over the years.
“We want to house our kids in one building,” Eager said. “Our buildings are getting older and they need significant dollars put into them. It’s something the board has talked about for many years.”
Putting everything under one roof also will allow for greater collaboration between faculty and students as the school prepares to create a “21st century learning environment,” according to Eager.
Additionally, bus routes will likely be shorter and parents won’t have to travel between buildings as they do now if they have children attending both schools.
During the planning stages, the board assured local residents the new facility could be built without raising local taxes. The project is being funded through successful renegotiation of the village’s tax increment financing revenue steam.
"This (start of construction) has been a long time coming and it is exciting to see the progress that is now being made here on a daily basis," Eager said before the groundbreaking ceremony Thursday.
The school is being built by Vissering Construction Co. of Streator on former farmland about 2,300 feet south of U.S. 6 and east of Route 178 by approximately 300 feet.
Vissering Project Manager Michael Slagel said site preparation work began a few weeks ago and, thanks to cooperating weather, the work is on schedule.
"We will soon start on the building's foundation and underground plumbing," Slagel said. "Good weather means we can get a lot accomplished (quickly)."
Utica President David Stewart called the start of construction, "Great for the community. The timing for this project, to have the school in one central location, could not have been better."
Stewart added: "This new school will be a tremendous advantage for the village to attract new people and business to our area."
— Times reporter Brent Bader contributed to this report.