First steps at Pioneer Elementary

Published 8:40 pm Monday, August 25, 2014

A visit to Pioneer Elementary School last week was like visiting the set of a reality TV show, with scores of tradesman and laborers rushing about trying to get the job done on time.

A reporter wandering around with a camera must have seemed out of place for these folks, but they only paused from their toils long enough to flash quick smiles.

Teachers and staff arriving at the school Monday were likely met by a very different scene. Furniture would have been installed in classrooms, lights hooked up and wires tucked back into ceilings.

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It hasn’t been a completely smooth road for the construction project. With unexpected snow, the contractor lost a lot of valuable time over the winter. Workers had to push hard to make up that time.

My field trip to the all-but-complete school was a very different experience than a visit I paid to the site one day in early July 2013, when city and school district officials gathered to turn the first sod.

On that day, part of the steel frame loomed behind the 16 officials as they leaned on their shovels and turned the earth.

Last week, the vision of that frame was replaced by the school itself, rising up from the agricultural land surrounding it.

Visiting a school, one always gets some kind of a sense of its individual personality. The effect increases with a building’s age, so that, for instance, the hallways of Florence Bowser Elementary almost speak — the experience becomes almost tangible.

No walls were speaking at Pioneer Elementary last week. They’ve not yet had the opportunity to soak in the laughter. But they will.

Despite the weather setbacks, a few change orders and all the other things that inevitably pop up during any construction — let alone a project of this magnitude — the school has been delivered within its $18.5-million budget, according to the school district’s Susan Redmon, who has managed the project.

Next Tuesday, students from Southwestern Elementary School will become the first to walk down Pioneer’s hallways, along with 16 from Booker T. Washington and 23 from Elephant’s Fork elementary schools, according to the approved zoning plan.

After a long road, that will be an exciting day for Suffolk.

Readers can look forward to reading in these pages about Pioneer Elementary School’s first steps. Stay tuned.