A song rang out Friday morning through Grant Elementary School’s packed gymnasium as a chorus of all ages celebrated a recently completed addition:
“We are one, standing hand in hand,” they sang.
In addition to Grant’s 300 or so students and their teachers and staff members, the event drew a vibrant range of guests: an alumna from 80 years ago, construction workers who labored on the yearlong project, Columbia City Council and Chamber of Commerce members, parents, former teachers and residents of the South Garth Avenue neighborhood.
In the moments leading up to the ribbon-cutting — complete with the requisite pair of oversized scissors — teachers and students did a call-and-response rendition of the school’s unifying motto: “I am Grant School.”
“It’s beautiful, it’s so beautiful,” said Betty Kemper, who attended Grant in 1935 and 1936 and happens to be the grandmother of school principal Jen Wingert.
Kemper, a former Hickman High School teacher, said her family has a long history with Grant, and she still lives “just down the road.”
After the ceremony, alumni and guests were invited into the school’s new cafeteria, where they were shown a sneak preview of a documentary about the construction made by Grant’s fifth-graders. It was produced with the help of Columbia Access Television and will be more widely shown at a later date.
Among those highlighted in the documentary were Brian and Mitch Stockman of Little Dixie Construction, who were honored at the ceremony for helping make the construction process a learning experience.
“One of the first things I remember is a kid coming up to me and saying, ‘Hey, when are you gonna get done with my playground?’” Brian Stockman said, adding the student couldn’t have been older than 5.
That was only one example of the extent to which Little Dixie became a part of the Grant community last year, Mitch Stockman said. He recalled a day he got to read a book about construction to a roomful of first-graders; the students had picked out the book, and it just happened to have equipment they were seeing outside their windows — cranes, plaster casts and the like.
“I cannot emphasize enough the community’s support for this school,” said guest Robert Winkelmann, whose two daughters attended Grant and who plans to volunteer there.
During tours of the new space, alumni frequently popped in and said hello to classes, pointing out rooms in which they used to learn and play.
On display in the front entrance are two desks from Grant’s original building, circa 1910, complete with intricately designed iron legs and inkwells.
Grant’s historic addition totaled $5.6 million, which voters approved as part of a 2014 bond issue, and included a new playground, cafeteria and kitchen, several classrooms and two elevators.
Four trailer classrooms are now part of Grant’s history — having been hauled away and put up for sale.