ABSS hosts ceremony to begin construction at South Mebane Elementary

A collection of local elected officials and school representatives took part in a special groundbreaking ceremony the morning of Tuesday, September 15 at South Mebane Elementary School. South Mebane is the beneficiary of an $8.482 million renovation project that will bring 12 new classrooms, expanded dining and cafeteria options, as well as numerous additional upgrades to the 60-plus year-old school. Alamance County Commissioner Chair Amy Scott Galey was joined by Alamance-Burlington School System Superintendent Dr. Bruce Benson and Chair Allison Gant, as well as multiple representatives of South Mebane Elementary including Principal Rebecca Royal and PTO President Kaylea Yarbrough. 

In celebration of the first 2018 education bond project launch for a building and cafeteria expansion at South Mebane Elementary School, Alamance-Burlington Schools hosted a small groundbreaking ceremony at the campus on Tuesday, September 15. Members of the Alamance-Burlington Board of Education and Alamance County Board of Commissioners as well as ABSS superintendent Dr. Bruce Benson were in attendance along with representatives from the architect and construction firms working on the project.

“Our motto of love, laughter, learning, and leading has been a part of our core culture for the past 23 years,” South Mebane Elementary Principal Rebecca Royal said in introducing the guests to the celebration. “Our culture has endured through state and national events like 9-11, hurricanes, tornadoes, and now a worldwide pandemic. It has endured because of our yearly themes that unite us as a school family and as a community. Our themes are thoughtfully and strategically selected each year based on the academic, behavioral, and social/emotional needs of our students and staff.” 

“When selecting this year’s theme to align with the seven habits of Leader in Me, it only makes sense to go with a construction theme. Thus, leaders under construction,” Royal continued. “As leaders under construction, we are focused on building a solid foundation in our students through the explicit teaching of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Happy Children. The construction and renovations planned for SME represent six of the seven habits and actions, and it’s also building the foundation for Mebane’s future leaders.”

The $8.482 million South Mebane Elementary project includes the addition of 12 new classrooms, addition of a new kitchen, renovation of existing kitchen space for dining expansion in the school’s cafeteria, renovations/upgrades to existing buildings including ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) additions, along with a wide range of school safety improvements including cameras, blinds, and carded entry locks. 

Improvements within the current South Mebane Elementary facility includes the replacement of vinyl composite tile flooring and carpet with tile, renovation of multi-restroom facilities with new plumbing fixtures, tile, partitions, and paint, remediation of water infiltration where buildings intersect, addition of humidity controls to HVAC upgrades or installations, replacement of windows in cafeteria and media center, replacement of non-ADA compliant cabinetry, sinks, and door hardware, a new ADA accessible main entrance, the repairing of damaged/cracked sidewalks, roof replacements and repairs where needed, the replacement of gymnasium flooring, and remediation of some erosion issues on the school’s property. 

“Our district leaders, school board, and county commissioners had to be proactive in recognizing the need for more classroom space,” Principal Royal said. “They had to begin with the end in mind in order to take a solid plan to the voters. They had to seek to understand the different perspectives and viewpoints of one another. They had to put first things first, and prioritize the needs throughout our country. They had to develop a win-win solution. And lastly, they had to synergize and work together - working together with architects and construction firms. This morning, I extend a heartfelt thank you to our district leaders, our school board, the County Commissioners, Morris Berg architects, and Frank L. Blum Construction Company in the part you played, and are playing, in making the construction possible, and for modeling the seven habits in action for our children - our leaders.” 

Amy Scott Galey, the Chair of the Alamance County Commissioners, spoke about the intense efforts it took to get the county’s bond referendum passed back in 2018, along with the collaboration among local elected officials to get to this point. 

“Today is one of those days which is the culmination of so much work, preparation, thought, and effort by so many people,” Galey said. “It’s kind of overwhelming when you think about it. What this building, this construction, this renovation represents to our community. It represents, first and foremost really, the little hearts, feet, hands, and voices of all the children to come through this school and through the Alamance-Burlington School System through the years. We are looking at generations of doctors and nurses, firemen, police officers, lawyers, judges, software engineers, construction executives and workers. All the people who come together to make this community. Restaurant owners and servers.” 

“When you think about the features that are going to be built on this property, it’s really overwhelming. It also represents the commitment and foresight of the community of Alamance County, who put together this bond project, put together the financing, put together the political will to see this day, and these bond projects start to unfold.” 

“I want to take a moment to recognize and think about the way the Alamance County Board of Commissioners and the Alamance-Burlington School System have been working together in the last few years,” Galey continued. “There has been a real effort to build a partnership to work together to address the operational needs and the capital needs of the school system. To find ways to address those needs without overburdening our taxpayers. It’s really been a collaboration built upon mutual respect and a lot of hard work. And I just hope that in the years going forward, that will be something that’s built upon. And those who have the honor of representing the community on those two boards in the future will continue to build on that platform of respect and collaboration, which brings us to this day. We can see the fruits of that effort on this day.” 

Allison Gant, Chair of the Alamance-Burlington School System’s Board of Education, was joined at the event by fellow Board of Education members Steve Van Pelt and Pam Thompson. Mebane City Council members Everette Greene, Patty Philipps, and Sean Ewing were also onhand, as was Mayor Ed Hooks. In addition to Commissioner Chair Galey, County Manager Bryan Hagood also made his way to the ceremony. 

“On behalf of our Board, I am thrilled to be here today to join in celebration of our very first 2018 Education Bond launch project,” said Gant. “I know that the South Mebane Elementary community has been looking forward to this day with great anticipation, and so have we. This is such an exciting day to reflect on the hard work and dedication on the part of so many community individuals, and the tremendous partnerships that have brought us to this moment.” 

“This is a proud moment for our entire community,” added Gant. “All Alamance County residents have a great deal to be proud of as this new construction is about to begin, to provide added classrooms and cafeteria space for more than 600 of our children at this school. I cannot tell you how proud our board is to see this project take shape, from the initial planning stages, through the bond process, to today. Our Board would like to thank everyone who is present today, because you all have worked so hard to make this project possible. I cannot wait to see you all again at the Ribbon Cutting ceremony, when everything is complete. Thank you for your continued support of our schools, and the children of our community.” 

“I think it’s important that our community know how together we are in improving outcomes for students in our community,” said ABSS Superintendent Dr. Bruce Benson. “Two years ago, a couple of months into my tenure as Superintendent, we were wondering whether or not our community would support a $150 million bond for construction, expansion, and renovation of our schools in ABSS. And they did overwhelmingly. Not even close. Thanks for everything that everybody did to make that happen - (it was a) community effort.” 

“Our teachers are central to creating a positive, inclusive, and supportive classroom climate. The physical space matters as well. Our students and teachers deserve comfortable, modern, and safe spaces in which to teach and learn,” Dr. Benson added. “We are in a very different place as a community than we were two years ago - COVID-19 aside. I’m thankful for the continued support of our community, the positive working relationships that we have with our elected officials and local government, our Commissioners and County Manager and his staff. “I’m also thankful for ABSS leaders and staff, who remain laser-focused on keeping our bond projects on schedule, and for a Board of Education that is committed to improved outcomes for all the students in our community. And here we are today, ready to put the first shovels in the dirt.” 

“Mike Powers, Vice President of the Frank L. Blum Construction Company, spoke on behalf of the primary building contractor of the renovated South Mebane Elementary. 

For 100 years, Frank Blum has been a part of building our communities with projects like this one,” Powers said. “Amidst the environment we’ve been in the last several months, this is a bright spot - building in our community again. To see these kids, and what this project will mean to this community, and being a part of that, is exciting for our team. And so I just wanted to take a moment to thank you for this opportunity.” 

“We look forward to partnering with the Alamance-Burlington School System, as well as Dr. Royal and her staff. We just thank you again for having us here, and we look forward to a successful ribbon cutting in the future.” 

Kaylea Yarbrough, PTO President of South Mebane Elementary, spoke on behalf of the students and parents of South Mebane. Yarbrough was joined by her four children, three of which are current students at South Mebane. 

“We want to say thank you to the community and citizens of Alamance County that were supporting this bond from the get go,” Yarbrough said. “We appreciate all those who came out and voted to pass this bond two years ago. The County Commissioners, School Board members, central office staff for seeing the need in Mebane to improve the facilities of South Mebane Elementary School. 

“(Famed educational author) Alfie Kohn once said if a child feels safe, they can take risks, ask questions, make mistakes, learn to trust, share their feelings, and grow,” Yarbrough continued. “Many years before my kids began at South Mebane, Mrs. Royal and her staff have been building a school that has been filled with love, laughter, and learning. South Mebane has been a bright light in our community. Strong with tradition, but also embracing change and diversity.” 

“Over the last five years, we’ve had the pleasure of sending our kids to South Mebane. When I ask my own kids what South Mebane means to them, they use words like kindness, family, and recognizing students. Each day, they feel comfortable and safe, and they are challenged and cared for. The new additions and improvements will ensure that staff and future students will experience love, laughter, and learning in a comfortable and safe environment for many years to come.”