TURIN — It’s a new era for South Lewis Central School District, not just a new school year.

For the first time, every student in the district is going to the same building on the same campus to learn. The last of the small, localized schools — Glenfield Elementary and Port Leyden Elementary — have shuttered and their former students arrived at the 4264 East Rd. main campus in Turin to see their new school alongside all of the other district students to begin the latest journey in their education.

Many parents and guardians drove their students to school and accompanied them to the front doors, but as is often the case on the first day of school, saying “goodbye” for the day wasn’t always easy.

Breann Mayer couldn’t stop watching as her youngest daughter, Teagan, 5, went into the new elementary school for her first day of kindergarten, following behind her big sister, Tailyn, 10.

“We have one daughter who was in the last class at Port Leyden (Elementary) and one in the first class at the new school,” said Gary Mayer, who was working as hard as Mrs. Mayer to control the emotional moment their youngest child started school.

Mr. Mayer agreed with Kodi Spencer, whose daughters Marley, 8, and Genesis, 6, went to Glenfield Elementary previously, that the best aspect of having the elementary school on the same campus as the middle and high schools is the consistency it offers their children.

“We’re very excited about the new school. It’s bigger with all new rooms,” Ms. Spencer said as she looked to her daughters for confirmation. “And the best part is not switching (schools) as they get older, keeping the same place for them.”

While buses lined up along the circle in front of the elementary school, “big kids” got out first and headed in to their homeroom classes before the little ones were led to the entrances that brought them closest to their new classrooms.

Masks worn by all of the children and the adults organizing the mass entrance to the school did not hide smiling, and sometimes nervous, eyes taking in the scene.

The 258,000-square-foot campus’ new main entrance makes a statement, framed by a modern, sculptural canopy of three-layered, fan-shaped grates suspended by red, peaked frames; multi-colored brick walls; and new landscaping.

Connected to the original building, the new two-story, 78,000-square-foot elementary school sprawls to the right of the entrance.

District Superintendent Douglas Premo, the school consolidation and capital project’s biggest proponent, said that while there is a long “punch list” of things that still need to be completed, it is a relief to be wrapping it up and getting children back to school.

“Having all of our students, faculty and staff in one location just makes the educational process more efficient, more effective and creates more opportunities for kids,” Mr. Premo said. “Things we couldn’t do when we had single small elementary schools because of resources and staffing are no longer barriers or blocks to us providing the best education possible. So, I do believe that the single campus is going to change the education for South Lewis for generations to come with regards to the type of experiences we can provide for our students and for the cost effectiveness of it for our taxpayers.”

In addition to the new elementary school, the original middle-high school building was given a face-lift and some renovations; improvements were made to the bus garage and biomass facility and new sports fields were created on 40 acres of donated land adjacent to the campus.

The $40 million capital project was approved in a 2018 vote of district taxpayers. According to the last date provided by the state Education Department, there are about 976 students enrolled in classes from kindergarten to 12th grade at South Lewis.

At one time, the school district consisted of six separate community schools in Greig, Lyons Falls, Constableville, Glenfield, Port Leyden and Turin.

Students, families and community members are invited to take a self-guided “single campus” tour on Thursday. For more information, go to the district’s website at www.southlewis.org.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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