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story.lead_photo.caption Liberty-Eylau Primary students and faculty sing the school's song Tuesday during the groundbreaking ceremony for the new school. Photo by Evan Lewis / Texarkana Gazette.

Young students at an iconic school gathered Tuesday in front of decades-old stones to celebrate a new beginning.

Liberty-Eyalu Independent School District broke ground on a new Primary School to replace the famous "Rock School," which bears an inscription of "Eylau 1938" above the front entrance. Built as part of a Works Progress Administration project, the school has served the now-combined district well, L-E Board President Scott Bergt told the crowd. But now, it's time for modernization.

"In 1938, when this building behind us was built, Americans needed a future. It represented hope," Bergt said, adding that it also provided a source of income during some of the worst economic times in our country's history. He went on to say the building was state-of-the art at the time, with the Texarkana Gazette describing the Rock School as a "thoroughly modern building with indoor plumbing and wood-burning stoves in every classroom."

Scott Bergt, Liberty-Eylau's school board president, talks about the investment in the community the new school building signifies Tuesday morning during the groundbreaking ceremony.
Photo by Evan Lewis/Texarkana Gazette.

"The charge of schools has not changed. Our mission is simply to prepare students for a bright future," he said. "The building that will take shape here will be one of the safest, technologically sophisticated and beautiful buildings in Texarkana. And it will still have indoor plumbing."

In 2016, taxpayers passed $20.9 million in bonds for district improvements, including the Primary construction, Pre-K Center additions, expansion of the high school's CTE building, a new middle school roof and districtwide heating and air-system upgrades.

The bond also included new turf, track and concession upgrades at Harris Stadium, which were completed in summer 2016. Phase 1 of the construction project, which includes the Pre-K addition and the CTE building, are scheduled to be completed by August. The groundbreaking at the Primary is the first step in Phase 2, with Buford and Sons Construction expected to finish the building by August 2018. According to district spokesman Matt Fry, the district will hand over the building for demolition June 19 to Buford and Sons. 

Ronnie Thompson, district superintendent, said the school has had a lasting effect on families for generations, and that the new school would continue that tradition.

"You should be very proud," he said. "I am very confident we will continue to see great leaders coming out of this school and truly produce true global graduates who will help check the future of our city, our state and our nation."

Bergt agreed that the building would continue to be a point of pride for many years to come, and building a new school was to let students know they are in a technologically-rich environment built with them in mind.

"These kids standing here today deserve it. Not only do they deserve it, but their children and their grandchildren do as well. This school represents an investment," he said."Most importantly, it's an investment to these students. I can't promise you that money you put in the stock market will grow. I can't promise you that business investments will work out. But what we can promise you is that investing in education for future generations is the soundest investment possible."

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