By Brandi Makuski & Nate Cate
Jefferson Elementary School is in store for a brand new front yard.
Officials from the public school district say they plan to ask the city to vacate a portion of East Ave. that travels in front of the building. East Ave. is a partial road and no longer open to public traffic — and cuts the school’s playground in half.
The section of road was closed two years ago to improve safety for elementary students, but was an instant eyesore for district officials and school staff.
“We have had discussions on how to move forward, and the timing to work with the city,” said Business Services Director Tom Owens, “but we were not able to get to this point until now.”
According to Don Keck, building and grounds supervisor for the district, the plan includes replacing the roadway with green space and a new sidewalk, curb and gutter.
“Once the city approves it, we’re going to remove that part of East Ave. and landscape it,” Keck said.
Workers will also install gates into the fencing around the school, Keck added, to allow for plow equipment on the property. No structural changes for the school are planned, he said.
The $41,000 project is estimated to break ground this summer. The plan has been submitted to city leaders for approval, but it was not immediately known when the City Plan Commission would consider the project.
Jefferson consistently has the highest number of students qualify for free/reduced hot lunch, according to district records, but just as consistently earns among the highest marks in the state when it comes to testing scores.
“It’s been a long time coming in getting that work done,” Owens said. “It would be nice to get the road work done so Jefferson looks more like a ‘normal’ school.”