COLUMBIA – Gold shovels tied with a yellow ribbon were lined up in the dirt for Columbia Public Schools' groundbreaking ceremony.
Afterward, those same shovelsnow smeared with mud were handled with near reverence by the board members as they placed them in their cars and discussed where they were going to put them.
"I'll keep mine in my office, in a place of honor," said Nick Boren, deputy superintendent for Columbia Public Schools.
The shovels were part of the groundbreaking for the district's new elementary school that will be next to Muriel Williams Battle High School. The ceremony attracted just more than 50 people, including representatives of the city and School Board members.
The district purchased 32 acres of land for $1.5 million in early September 2011 from St. Charles Road Development, which also sold the district the land for Battle High School, according to previous Missourian reporting. The location was chosen after surveys showed that growth was projected in the area.
"We've dealt with trailers and temporary classrooms for many years – too many years," Boren said. "Some are 25 to 30 years old. This will be a quality space with 21st century learning, and restrooms and running water."
The school is expected to open fall of 2015 and will hold about 600 students. It will be the district's 20th elementary school, Boren said. It is still unnamed, with no colors or mascot picked either.
"Those are picked ahead of time for high schools to build excitement," said Michelle Baumstark, the district's community relations director. "With elementary schools, we want them to be involved, so the first class will do something special to select these things."
Groundbreaking ceremonies are not very common for the district, Boren said.
"We didn't when we built the administration building," he said. "But this school is something special for kids, and it's all about the kids."
This is Boren's seventh year in the district, and groundbreakings are a source of pride for him. He keeps his gold shovel from Battle's groundbreaking hung up in his office and intends to place the new one there as well.
"It's a reminder of progress," he said.