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New Palmetto Elementary ‘movin’ on up’ (with photo gallery)

PALMETTO -- Watching students sing for the first time on the stage of the brand new Palmetto Elementary School during Saturday’s open house, brought tears to Barbara Harvey’s eyes.

Harvey, a school board member, was once an assistant principal at the old Palmetto Elementary School in the mid 1970s.

“I’ve cried more today, just to see this,” she said. “This means so much to me.”

The new school at 1540 10th St. W. opened its doors this weekend to students, parents and the public. The school replaces the aging Palmetto Elementary School on 7th Street West, and will officially open its doors to classes Jan. 4, when students return from winter break.

“We’re movin’ on up, to the east side,” the Palmetto Elementary School Chorus sang during one of several performances ushering in the new era for the school. “We finally got a piece of the pie.”

They received a rousing applause from a standing-room-only crowd.

Principal Eddie Hundley piped in on the new sound system and welcomed everyone to the new Palmetto Elementary School. He told the crowd, it was not just a school, but a true community school.

The school sits directly between the Palmetto Boys and Girls Club and Just for Girls Inc., and has partnered with the organizations for the benefit of the students.

“We have a new school and it’s a wonderful school,” said Hundley. “I want to share it with you. This is your school.”

Harvey echoed Hundley’s sentiments.

“For me to see this new facility, I am just in awe,” she said. “It is a beautiful facility. More than the bricks and mortars, there is a warm, welcoming feeling to the students here.”

It took seven years from start to fruition to finally get a new school, and was well worth the wait, said Diane Lang, president of the Palmetto Family Organization, a member of the school’s design team, and president of the parent-teacher organization for six years.

“It’s just a great facility,” said Lang, who has had two daughters attend Palmetto Elementary. “Our kids were lacking in what they got in technology because of the facility they had. Some of it wouldn’t work in the old school. These kids are deserving of something new and cool.”

The new Palmetto Elementary covers 107,437 square feet and contains 955 student stations, according to a press release. Construction costs for the new facility totaled $17.4 million.

Marisa Nadeau, parent liaison for the school, called the new school, a “crown jewel” for the Manatee County School District. The school is filled with new technology, including wireless laptops, smart boards, overhead projectors and amplified podiums that will make it easier for teachers to instruct students.

“It’s going to make the students excited,” said Nadeau.

No more safety concerns about the open campus of the old school, according to school officials. The new school is a gated facility with a state-of-the art campus monitoring system. Window shades in the “cafetorium” allow those inside to see out, but those on the outside cannot see in.

“That’s a nice safety feature, “said Sgt. Duane Kauffman, of the Palmetto Police Department, who was on hand to explain new walking routes to students and parents. “This school is set up top-notch safety-wise.”

The new school is a safer, cleaner environment that is more conducive to learning, said Hundley.

“We are going to provide a better, quality education to students,” he said.

Attending the open house with her father, fifth grader Olivia Hernandez was anxious to see her new classroom.

“I think it is really nice and it’s really going to be better than the old school,” the 11-year-old said. “We will do much better than the old school because we will have new stuff.”