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If the walls could talk, they would tell stories of romance, tales of adventure, fears of the unknown, unspeakable sorrows and dreams of the future.
For more than 80 years, the walls of Williston High School have heard just about everything–most things repeated many times over.
Since June they’ve heard a new story–one that’s not been told before and causes smiles, laughter and sometimes even giddiness. It is a story that will be repeated over and over for the next two years.
The old halls will soon be silent as this past Monday, ground was broken on a new $34 million state of the art middle/high school campus.
Levy County School Superintendent Robert Hastings and his school board welcomed local, state and national dignitaries to the new schools’ site, located at the intersection of CR 316 and SR 41, to officially break ground for the school, set to open in the fall of 2016. This year’s high school sophomores will be the first graduating class in the new school.
Hastings praised the location for the new school, calling it beautiful and convenient.
The current high school, built in 1932, can no longer be improved.
Hastings said when more electricity cannot be added, or more computers, a new school becomes “absolutely necessary.”
The official groundbreaking is, Hastings said, “Our way of saying thank you, thank you, thank you to all the people who made it a reality.”
Guest speakers at the ceremony included:
• Superior Court Judge Tim Browning who paraphrased Proverbs 16:16 “How much better to get wisdom than gold, to get insight rather than silver!” Browning hailed the men and women who take on the mantle of responsibility to teach children. He said the only thing greater was the reward that is reaped from their efforts. Browning also delivered the invocation and led the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag.
• Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart who lauded the local school representatives and the state legislators for understanding the importance of a new facility.
• State Rep. Jimmie T. Smith of Citrus County: “Florida supports education, not just in policy. We put our money where our mouth is.” Smith cited the need for more technology and the infrastructure to support it. He commended the school supporters for looking forward and not giving up.
• Rep. Dennis Baxley: “It’s a new day,” said the Ocala legislator, “and standing here today, it’s like a field of dreams.” Baxley congratulated the school supporters for their tenacity, even in a deep recession. “Nothing significant can be done alone,” he said, “but one person can make a difference.” He said the new school will elicit a new pride in the community. “There’s nothing a little prosperity won’t help.”
• Rep. Charlie Stone: “This is a great day in Levy County and certainly in the city of Williston,” said Stone, one of the key legislators who pushed for the school funding in Tallahassee. “I was honored to take this project and move it forward, but it was a team effort across both sides of the legislature.” Stone said the school will indeed instill a renewed sense of pride and will be home to outstanding teachers and students. “I look forward to celebrating a ribbon cutting.”
• Sen. Charlie Dean: A former educator and county sheriff, Dean said he knew what it meant to work with limited resources. “You have to provide to make things happen,” he said. “This is more than a foundation. It’s a feeling of pride, of community pride and it will always be sustained by educating our children.”
• Rep. Ted Yoho: When appropriating funds, leaders at any level must decide if something is an asset or a liability, Yoho said. “This is an asset,” he said. Nationwide, school test scores are decreasing, he said, and the only way to improve is to make investments in the future. “The way to rebuild America,” Yoho said, “is to educate our youth.”
• Williston Council President Jason Cason: “This is a huge morale booster for Williston,” Cason said. “That pride will grow.” He also thanked the people who made the school a possibility and the council for its support of the endeavor.
• School Board Chairman Robert Philpot: “I didn’t think this day would ever come,” Philpot said. “I was the Doubting Thomas. I think this is cool.” Philpot listed three reasons why a new school is cool. 1) It will be a tremendous asset for the city of Williston because ever since he came to the city, the school has been a focal point. 2) The teachers, administrators and support staff will enjoy working in a new modern facility. “I can only imagine coming to a place where everything works. 3) Students will enjoy learning in a facility that has state of the art cutting edge technology. “We’ve done a great job educating people with what we have. We will be better in the future.”
• Contractors Ivan Oelrich and Robert Hayes promised to deliver the quality project the community deserves.
• Minister Al Carnegie read the school board’s mission statement, “The School Board of Levy County will educate all students in a safe environment and graduate them for college and career success” before delivering the benediction.
Following the ceremonial shovel-to-dirt groundbreaking ceremony, complete with hard hats for everyone, more than 100 people attending the event enjoyed refreshments.