NEW ALBANY — Sharon Jones has spent her adult life in education. For 12 years she served as principal at Slate Run Elementary School in New Albany.

But that was the old Slate Run, not the new one which had its official ribbon cutting ceremony Tuesday morning.

Jones had the look of a proud parent as she gazed up at the new media center and cafeteria. The new Slate Run is 84,000 square feet, almost twice the size as the school she ran as principal. The cafeteria is no longer housed in the gymnasium, it's a real cafeteria with a modern kitchen. But the one thing that caught Jones' eye right away Tuesday were the walls.

"There is no more wood paneling," she said laughing, recalling one of the old school's signature features. "I am just amazed."

She was not alone. Many who walked into the new building were amazed Tuesday. The Slate Run staff is preparing to open the 2019-20 school year at the school as construction crews put the finishing touches on the interior of the building. For the past two years Slate Run students have attended school at Graceland while the new building was being constructed.

The new building, which broke ground in May 2017, cost around $18 million to construct. It's equipped with an updated security system and the front entrance is easy to spot, unlike the old school which kept visitors guessing which door to use.

Bill Wiseheart, director of facilities for the New Albany Floyd County Consolidated School Corp., has watched every step of the bidding and construction process and is pleased with the finished product and cost.

"We were lucky bids came in so favorably," he said. "The project timed out nicely."

The new school has 22 classrooms along with a media center, cafeteria and gymnasium. It also has an old school look with a wooden floor in the front foyer and hallway.

"This is very, very exciting. It's been a long journey but I am very proud of what this community has done," NAFC Superintendent Brad Snyder said of the public voting for an $87 million referendum in 2016 to fund construction of Slate Run and Green Valley, along with making improvements at other facilities.

Snyder said like a good book, education must have a "great beginning, great middle and great ending" for each student. He said the Slate Run staff will make sure each student will have just that during their time at the school.

"This is way more than brick and mortar. This is about a community," he said. "They come here and learn how to read and write ... it's about a lot of things."

Ron Schad was principal at Slate Run from 1983-92. An addition to the building was added to the old school during his time as principal. He was principal at Greenville prior to coming to Slate Run. He said he was pleased with the way the new Slate Run turned out.

"I questioned why they needed a building at first and they said they had an Indianapolis firm take an assessment of the buildings. This building [old Slate Run] was at the top of the list. It was outdated," he said.

Amy Niemeier agreed a new building was needed. It was first discussed in 2012 and, while it took seven years, was well worth the wait, she said.

"The design of this building will meet the needs of children," she said. "We had challenges but ultimately the voters came out to the polls and said yes."

Before school let out for the summer, Slate Run students got to go through the new building with staff, Niemeier said.

"We built the school for the students and they were the first to experience the building," she said. "It was a memorable day. It was a special event and important to the school family. We are now ready for the next chapter."

Wiseheart said shifting school to Graceland allowed the construction process to move along at a quicker pace. Had Graceland not been used, Slate Run students would have used the old Green Valley school until the new building was finished.

• There will be a public open house from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Aug. 22 at Slate Run.

Chris Morris is an assistant editor at the News and Tribune. Contact him via email at Follow him on Twitter: @NAT_ChrisM.

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