By JESSICA WILT, The Journal
RANSON, W.Va. (AP) — Ranson Mayor Duke Pierson stressed the importance that the future of Ranson Elementary remain true to the lessons and traits passed on to students throughout its history, keeping its roots close to the heart as the school moves to its new location along Route 115 .
“Move forward with what Ranson stands for: integrity, pride, leadership, all the things have been embedded in the students of Ranson Elementary the last several decades,” he said, leading into a joke that drew a laugh from the crowd.
“I’m one of those people, and it was only a few years ago. I can assure you, I stood by and talked to one of my teachers when I got here, and I named every one of the teachers I had nearly 60 years ago,” Pierson said. “To be able to do that means something to me and means something to all the elementary students that go through Ranson Elementary School.”
Pierson’s speech came as one of several during a groundbreaking event the morning of May 3 at the future home of Ranson Elementary School, an event that connects the past to the future, Pierson speaking of the past and current students bouncing with excitement of the new building .
West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Clayton Burch asked the handful of students on hand what the best part of a new school is, with one eagerly yelling, “Everything!” As the crowd smiled and laughed, Burch noted that the movement of both Ranson and Shepherdstown Elementary School, which also had its groundbreaking, was a symbol of the strength of Jefferson County.
“That’s a great big span of many, many years and many teachers who have come and gone in that building, with a wonderful leader, my predecessor in Mrs. Debra Corbett, and myself,” Ranson Principal Lance Astorino said. “It’s wonderful to see the impact that it had before and the continuation of that same type of environment.”
The school also serves as a symbol of what the students of Ranson believe in and the community of Ranson believes in, as stakeholders of all types played a part in the design of the school. However, it was the youngest stakeholders who warmed the heart of principal architect Randy Jones with ZMM.
“As architects, we are inspired by a lot of things; we’re inspired by nature, inspired by cities. For me personally, what inspires me is working with children. That’s why I became a school designer,” he said. “(Working with the students) was the most fun I’ve had in a long time. The imagination and creativity from these kids was truly inspirational, and their teachers that came with them were there to let them just dream. That’s what we do: we dream and try to look at things we can put into this school that would truly inspire them to make them the best students they could be.
“The design you see here is truly inspired by the students. We were watching Facebook posts and different comments about the design for the school. There was a comment that, ‘Gee, Ranson doesn’t really fit into the historical nature of Jefferson County Schools.’ My comment to that is the design is inspired by the kids. The children saw the arch of the rockets and knew that’s what they wanted to see in their school. The Ranson Rockets is represented very well and is represented on the outside of the building.”
Board President Kathy Skinner thanked all who participated in the process thus far, taking a moment to reflect on the weight of the groundbreaking and the importance of what the land will someday hold.
“The building is very exciting, but all a building is walls and roof,” Skinner said. “A school is a place for children to get educated. A home is where children thrive and flourish. Mr. Astorino, please make this a home for our Ranson children and help them thrive and flourish in the beautiful new facility they’re going to be getting.”
Striving to be that comforting and inspiring environment, Astorino paused as he considered the emotions tied to the few shovels full of dirt.
“Being the newer principal here at Ranson, it’s definitely emotional,” he said. “It’s great to see this finally come and be a thing now. It truly is an inspiration of our students. I charged our staff and our students, especially the students, into creating a place that is fit for them, a place that they want, they feel they can love and cherish and flourish. It’s so important to put our kids first; if we don’t put our students first, then it’s very difficult to have any room for growth.”
With the parent center, mental health area and additional STEM lab for other schools to use, Ranson will be a thriving center for the community and great partner school, always staying true to that Rocket mentality even outside of city limits.
“We will still always be part of that Ranson community,” Astorino said.
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