MILTON — The James. F. Baugher Elementary School renovation project kicked off recently with a wall-smashing ceremony.

Six students and several district officials used golden hammers or sledgehammers to demolish a wall on the first floor of the elementary school. They were joined by school board members, teachers, administrators and employees to kick off the two-year project that is just under $18 million.

“It’s a great day,” said Baugher Elementary Principal David Slater. “Planning and preparation for this day have been a long time coming. It’s finally here. We’re excited and the work can finally begin.”

The project will focus on HVAC systems, security, and additional classroom space for students and teachers. The building was constructed in 1974.

“There hasn’t been any major renovations or reconstruction to this building,” said Slater. “To have this day finally happen, I can’t be happier or more excited for our community, our students and staff. It’s something we waited a long time for and it’s much needed. It’s been four years of putting together feasibility studies.”

Dr. John Bickhart, the superintendent of the Milton Area School District, said Baugher is a “staple of this community.”

“It’s where the heart and soul of this community lives,” said Bickhart. “Little kids come here every day. We were excited to get this going and have the kids involved. It’s their school, it’s their future. In our minds we wanted our kids represented and our staff represented.”

Students who lifted the hammer and smashed the wall included kindergarten students Mila Rivera and Emmerson Baker; first-grader Zaine Straub; second-grader Bryson Yeager; third-grader Delaney Snyder; and fourth-grader Kendallyn Kendrick. Adults included first-grade teachers Mary DeLong and Ryan Emery, school board Director Lindsay Kessler, Assistant Principal Seth Decker and Bickhart.

DeLong, a teacher for 41 years at Baugher and a graduate of Milton, took the first adult swing.

“I’m excited about it,” she said. “I hope to be here when it’s finished.”

Emery, in his first year with the district and former student at Baugher, said it was “crazy” and “awesome” to be there.

“The kids really deserve what’s happening at the school,” he said.

Kessler said she is “super excited” to have the project started.

“We’ve waited a long time for this,” she said.

Last month, the school board members authorized the administration to work with PFM Financial Advisors LLC and Eckert, Seamans Cherin & Mellot as bond counsel and the solicitor with the issuance of general obligations bonds and complete the financing based on awarded project bid.

s not to exceed $10 million. From a previous bond issue, the board has approximately $10 million available for the Baugher renovation.

Fifth-grade students have been temporarily sent to White Deer Elementary School for the 2022-23 school year while the renovations take place. The project is expected to be finished by summer 2024.

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