JENSEN BEACH, Fla. — New year, new school.
When students at Jensen Beach Elementary School returned to class on Wednesday, it was on the same property, but a new school campus.
At more than 50 years old, their now-former campus was outdated and needed to be replaced.
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The work still continues at Jensen Beach Elementary School. In fact, a back door is currently being used as the front door. But it was time for out with the old and in with the new.
The halls of the new school are finally filled with little feet, making their way to new, bright classrooms.
"To come in today and have it all done up and have things on the wall, they are just really excited," teacher MaryAnn Conrad said.
JBE, as it's affectionately known, is all in the family for Conrad.
"I started at JBE, at the old school, at 8," Conrad said. "And my twin grandchildren are gonna start here today as 8-year-olds."
Conrad taught at the old campus for 25 years, now starting fresh in a new building with signs still taped to the walls, new collaborative spaces, and students adjusting to a new routine.
"The stairs have been a challenge," Conrad said. "Most have never done stairs, so doing the stairs is a little challenging. But it’s just been really a welcoming place to be."
The new school has been a long time coming. Built in 1970, the state ruled the old Jensen Beach Elementary School functionally obsolete.
A half-cent sales tax that voters approved in 2018 made the construction possible, but COVID-19 delayed the project.
"The students are proud to be in a new building. The teachers are proud to teach in a new building that’s clean and fresh and represents their community and what they stand for," said Michael Maine, the deputy superintendent of the Martin County School District.
Maine said the new school was built with the future in mind.
"We do have a few extra open classrooms, so it was designed for growth opportunities, both in the community and area, and for students who may want to choice in," Maine said.
Parents like Andi McAvoy, a member of the school's parent-teacher association, are relieved to see the project finally come together with improved space and security.
"There is so much more safety in this building than, I feel, even at a bank, honestly," McAvoy said.
While Conrad is still getting adjusted to all of the new technology in her classroom, she's looking forward to making new memories here.
The old Jensen Beach Elementary School will be demolished soon and the property will become the car line and parking for the new school.
Next on the list for a new school in the Martin County School District is Palm City Elementary School. That same half-cent sales tax from 2018 is also funding the construction.
Palm City students are scheduled to move into their new campus after spring break this year.