AKRON — A centuries-old burr oak tree stood vigil in front of the newly-dedicated elementary school in Akron as an audience of more than 100 people sat in the new gymnasium to help usher in a new era in education for Tippecanoe Valley students who live in that community.
The significance of the tree, which dominates the landscape to the west of the school, was pointed out by Kirk Robinson of Pike Lumber Company who was one of the speakers at the open house for Akron’s new elementary
school. Pike Lumber was called upon by Tippecanoe Valley School Corporation to provide hardwood accents throughout the $17.6 million school. Robinson said the tree, which provided challenges in working around the massive oak, was likely older than 200 years.
Tippecanoe Valley School Corporation Superintendent Brett Boggs gave the audience a brief history on the early planning stages of the project.
“It was almost three years ago in April of 2015, that the Tippecanoe Valley Board of School Trustees conducted a project and preliminary determination hearing in the old Akron Elementary School gym just south of here where probably some of you parked this afternoon,” Boggs said, adding that ground was broken on the project May 18, 2016.
Chrissy Mills, principal of the school told the audience that the transition from old to new facility was a challenge to the students and staff.
“My staff has gone through so many changes this last two school years,” she said. “Everyone moved at least once and some even moved three times before reaching their final classroom or office. Through the changes, not once did I hear them complain. It’s not just a building we come to every day to work, it’s a second home where we come every day to see our second family. Thank you all for an amazing school.”
The audience also heard presentations from two of the school’s standout students.
Gunnar Crispen, student council president, told the crowd about his journey at Akron Elementary School from the early days.
“Our school has clearly changed a lot since my first day of kindergarten,” he said. “One of my favorite things is in the classrooms, they include an interactive board that lets the students be engaged in the lessons they are being taught. This school has impacted me a lot. My first day of kindergarten was very scary but now, thanks to our new school, it makes learning fun. I look forward to coming here.”
Karen Callahan, student council vice president, was equally positive about the new facility.
“Akron Elementary School has provided an opportunity for its students to learn and try new things,” she said. “Our new building will impact future students to grow and learn for many years to come. Our new lunch room has individual tables that can seat up to eight people so you can sit with more of our friends. Unlike my kindergarten year, I no longer request peanut butter and jelly for lunch. Now that I am older I enjoy eating a variety of food and the school cafeteria does an excellent job of providing that.”
Adam Heckaman, former Akron student and current school board president was reflective on the history of the school.
“Akron Elementary has been at the heart of our community for many years and thanks to the support of everyone involved, it will continue to be a focal point for many years and generations to come,” he said. “For those of us who attended Akron Elementary, it was difficult to say goodbye to the old school. This building had played such an important role in all of our lives, including my own family. Some 75 years ago my grandmother Elaine went to Akron school. My father, siblings and I attended Akron as well and my daughter is now a student here.”
The presentation, which included a presentation of a plaque from a representative of The Skillman Corporation, construction manager for the project, was followed by a tour of the new facility.