State and local politicians donned hard hats and gathered Friday at the construction site at Middlesex Elementary to tout how federal stimulus money is helping fund renovations at the school.
“Education is the key to creating good jobs and long-term economic prosperity,” said U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge, D-2nd District. “I want all of our children to go to good schools and get a good education so they will be able to succeed in the 21st century economy.”
Mark Strickland, special assistant for auxiliary services for the school district, said the construction project at Middlesex Elementary is his first experience with a USDA project.
“We are all thankful with the partnership that we have here in Nash County with the USDA in helping us work on this project and get it going for the school kids here in Nash-Rocky Mount Schools,” he said.
Strickland said the previous 7,000-square-foot building at Middlesex Elementary was built in 1938.
It was old, dilapidated and “not accessible at all,” he said.
Strickland said the building will be replaced with an approximately 37,000-square-foot building with 12 classrooms, a couple computer labs and a “brand new kitchen and cafeteria.”
“What we have now is woefully inadequate for the 425-plus students that we have here,” he said. “We’ll get a new cafeteria and a new kitchen in the center part of the building. We’ll have a new administrative area that’s been designed to meet the needs of today and tomorrow.”
One of the most significant benefits of the USDA funds is the ability to have a year-round functioning air conditioning system in the school’s gymnasium, Strickland said.
Strickland said the completion date for the project will be in time with the start of the 2011 school year.
“I hear everyday, somebody said, that the recovery money didn’t create any jobs at all,” Etheridge said. “It’s amazing. This school didn’t just pop up with nobody working. You know that’s not so.”
Etheridge said it’s like the field of dreams.
“If you build it, they will come,” he said. “If you have a good place to learn, teachers have a good place to teach and you have the quality facility ... that’s the future.”
A child in Middlesex ought to have the same opportunities as a child anywhere else in America, he said.
“Creating good jobs and addressing the needs of our local schools have been my top priorities in Congress, and I know the importance of quality school buildings to the educational goals we have for our children,” Etheridge said. “There really is no substitute for bricks and mortar when it comes to quality schools.”
Breaking ground for this school is like laying the cornerstone of a great monument, he said.
“This school is the cornerstone of this community,” Etheridge said. “Through these doors will pass Nash County’s future, North Carolina’s future and the future of the United States of America.”
Victor Vazquez, deputy undersecretary for USDA rural development, said projects like the one taking place at Middlesex Elementary don’t occur without local, state and federal leadership.
“This is proof of what the reinvestment act will do,” Vazquez said. “We’re starting to see that job growth and that job expansion.”
Now the projects are breaking ground, he said.
“We are pleased that USDA was one of the departments that was allowed the opportunity to funnel the resources out into rural communities,” he said. “We’re just brokers of the resources. We get them out into the communities and eventually (they) turn into private sector jobs. They don’t turn into public sector jobs.”