VERNON (KFDX/KJTL) — A $40 million school bond was passed in Vernon back in November to build a brand new elementary school, as well as make improvements to the high school. Now, Vernon ISD administrators said they are moving forward with the build.

To kick off the first phase, a ground-breaking ceremony was held where the new elementary school will be built.

For Vernon ISD Superintendent Jeff Byrd, Friday was a big day.

“We’re combining Central Elementary and Shive Elementary into one central location, and it’ll be in this field right here,” Byrd said.

On top of building a brand new state-of-the-art facility, Byrd said they are also spending roughly $6 to 7 million on much-needed renovations to the high school.

“I think it’s really needed for the school district, but I also think it’s kind of a symbol of hope for our community,” Byrd said. “It’s something that the community agreed that we needed, it’s something the community can take great pride in, hopefully it’s something that will recruit people when they are moving to the Wichita Falls Region 9 area, that it’s appealing and helps get them to Vernon.”

Shive and Central Elementary Principal Stefanie Merrell agrees the new building will be good for the district.

“It has been a big need for many years, and our kids deserve a place that they can be proud of and feel safe in,” Merrell said.

Byrd said the amount of residents and faculty that showed up to the ceremony only goes to show how much this bond was supported by the community.

“I think that obviously the amount of people that showed up for the ground-breaking ceremony – I think that’s a true testament to the community supporting the bond and the future of the school district and of our town,” Byrd said.

Merrell has been with the district for long enough to know that this new facility is a long time coming.

“The struggles definitely have been real,” Merrell said. “It’s been very challenging, and so I think a new facility will just bring fresh energy and just kind of reignite that spirit.”

Both Byrd and Merrell hope a positive spirit will stick with their students for years to come.

Byrd said if everything goes according to plan, they are hoping to be using the new facilities at the beginning of the 2023-24 school year.