BRICKLAYERS FOR A DAY

BILL WEST / Star Beacon CHLOE VELEZ, 7, of McKinsey Elementary, smiles for the photographers before putting a concrete block into place at the new elementary schools site Wednesday on Wade Avenue in Ashtabula. Velez is in the first grade.

Four-year-old Matt Novak met Bob the Builder face to face Wednesday morning, or at least it seemed that way to him.

The Windermere preschooler helped Kevin Kelm, a foreman with Mike Coates Construction, lay a concrete block for the yet-unnamed prekindergarten to third-grade school going up on Wade Avenue. Matt was one of eight Ashtabula Area City School students — one from every grade and every elementary school — who got to work on the south wall of the pre-K-3 school. It will be the first new elementary school to open, in fall 2011.

Despite a downpour Monday and a muddy walk to the building site, the project is moving along steadily, Superintendent Joseph Donatone said.

“It’s a wonderful day,” he said. “The walls are going up.”

McKinsey Elementary student Chloe Velez, 7, wrinkled up her nose at all the mud.

“She doesn’t like to get dirty,” said her mother, Kelly Velez, who serves as treasurer of the McKinsey parent-teacher organization.

Even so, Chloe did her part, ponytails neatly in place.

Kelm said Brent Cotton, 10, of Plymouth Elementary School, was “a natural” block layer, slapping the wet concrete down in perfect order.

“Good job,” Kelm said.

Aside from a day here or there because of bad weather, the work continues nonstop at the 80-acre site, said Ben Pintabona, construction manager for Scaparotti Co. Pintabona said he fully expects the school to open on schedule.

The district’s $50 million elementary-school campus is being funded through an agreement with the Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC). The school district’s master plan, which was developed with community input and approved by OSFC and the board of education, includes the construction of five campus-style elementary schools: the prekindergarten through third-grade school, two kindergarten through third-grade schools, and two fourth through sixth-grade schools. After the pre-K-3 school, the other schools will open consecutively during the next year or so. Each school will house about 450 students, school officials have said.

Last June, the school board approved the construction documents and building plans of project architects Olsavsky, Jaminet Architects Inc. of Youngstown, and Fanning/ Howey Associates of Dublin.

To save money, Pintabona said the school district recycled bricks from the demolished elementary and junior high schools.

Janine Trebuchon-Wertz, school board vice president, took her camera with her Wednesday morning to make sure she got photos of all of the students, who included Zoe Hodgkinson, 11, Lakeside Intermediate; Sean Allgood, 6, State Road Elementary; Kylee Clint, 10, Saybrook Elementary, and Michael Rocco, 9, and Allie Perry, 8, both from Thomas Jefferson Elementary School.

“It’s very exciting,” Trebuchon-Wertz said.

School board members Chris Seuffert and Alfred DeCato also came out to see the children and get an update on the construction.

Mother Nature cooperated with bright sunshine and temperatures in the low 40s.

As the festivities wound down, Pintabona asked the students to gather together for a group photo.

“One more picture, and you can go back to school,” he said.

“Oooh,” the children groaned.

The grown-ups laughed.

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