SANTA MARIA, Calif. - A new school has moved one large step towards opening up in Santa Maria.
On Thursday, Santa Maria-Bonita School District officials held a groundbreaking ceremony to mark the start of construction for a new campus to be built in the Enos Ranch project.
"It's beyond excitement because I kind of think is this really happening?" said Santa Maria Bonita School District board member Vedamarie Alvarez-Flores.
The school will sit on a 10-acre site near Shepard Drive, in between College Avenue and South Bradley Road, just behind the new Enos Ranch Center.
"We're making our community stronger. We're building another facility to educate our young people," said Alvarez-Flores. "There's a lot of growth happening here and in order for it to be nurtured, we need to do it with schools that are strong."
The unnamed school will hold up to 900 students, from transitional kindergarten though 6th grade.
Among the many highlights of the new school will be a two-story design, a first for an elementary school in the district.
"I feel because it's a new and exciting design, it will give folks an opportunity to maybe be more collaborative and to also have a better sense of school community because we're going to be a little closer together," said Jose Segura, Santa Maria Elementary Education Association President.
There are many other new features in store, which according to Superintendent Luke Ontiveros, will help move 21st century education in the city further along.
"The design of the school provides some unique opportunities," Ontiveros said. "There are learning common areas outside the traditional classroom space that really fit towards collaboration and critical thinking and the kind of creativity that children need to be involved with in order to be better prepared for their future."
The pie-shaped location is smaller than many other elementary school locations in the city, but is bigger than a handful of others.
One interesting note is that it will be located just a few hundred yards away from neighboring George Washington Battles School, which sits just west.
"We will undergo a complete evaluation of distribution of students. It will require some redesign of boundary areas across the entire district in some form or another," said Ontiveros.
The school will cost between $40 to $50 million to build.
Funding will come primarily through Measure T bond money, which city voters passed in 2014.
With more than 17,000 students, Santa Maria-Bonita is currently the largest district in Santa Barbara County.
"Santa Maria-Bonita has the 11 largest elementary schools and 14 of the 15 largest elementary schools in Santa Barbara County. The construction of this new school is incredibly necessary, greatly appreciated, and cause for celebration," said Ontiveros. "This will be the district's 17th elementary school, 21st school overall, and will help us keep pace with growth in the community. We are excited to provide the children of Santa Maria with another inspiring, innovative place to learn and grow."
While the opening of the school will not dramatically alter class size, it will help alleviate many issues.
"It will provide us more space to be more innovative and creative, especially with special education services," said Segura. "It will give other sites an opportunity to breath a little bit and that's what we're really forward to in a lot of our school sites. They're so impacted. They're learning in every possible room and space on a campus, so to provide a little bit of breathing space, to maybe recover some of those spaces that used to be libraries or computer labs, and turn them back into those facilities will be really great for a lot of our school sites."
Ontiveros said the community will be invited to help name the school. Proposals will be taken and considered over the year, with a formal decision expected to come by next spring.
Construction is set to begin next week.
The opening of the new elementary school is scheduled for August 2020.