Kindergarten students Callen Sutton and Tallulah Augustine join Brunswick School District officials in the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Kate Furbish Elementary School. HANNAH LACLAIRE / TIMES RECORD

BRUNSWICK — When kindergarten students Tallulah Augustine and Callen Sutton drove their pint-sized shovels into the dirt on Wednesday, they became not only the youngest construction crew members ever, but also launched the building of a new elementary school they’ll be attending in a few years. 

District officials held a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday for the future Kate Furbish Elementary School, making Augustine and Sutton honorary participants.

The $20.3 million school for students in pre-k through second  grade is slated to open its doors in 2020. Kate Furbish will be built on the same site as the former Jordan Acres School, which closed in 2011 due to structural problems. It will replace the 62-year-old K-1 Coffin Elementary School, which is currently housing eight classrooms in portable units, Superintendent Paul Perzanoski said. The district has not yet determined what will happen to the Coffin school after it closes in 2020.

Kate Furbish Elementary School, an estimated 70,900 square feet, is projected to hold 660 students, including a pre-k program which the district has wanted to pursue for a long time but hasn’t been able to due to a lack of space, according to Brunswick Council Chairman John Perrault.

Having roughly half of the elementary students at Kate Furbish will also open up space at Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary School, which could allow for other learning opportunities and services for students, school board Chairwoman Joy Prescott said.

Voters approved spending up to $28 million on the school, but the project ultimately came in several million dollars under budget.

“Thank you for your commitment to public education and future generation of students,” Perzanoski said.

While they welcomed the new school at the groundbreaking, officials, community members and alumni bid an emotional farewell to Jordan Acres, where thousands of Brunswick students learned between 1972 and 2011.

State Rep. Mattie Daughtry, an alumna of Jordan Acres, said that “so much of who I am was formed within those walls.”

The new school is named after botanist Catherine Furbish, who devoted over 60 years of her life to classifying and illustrating the native flora of Maine.

The next generation of students, dozens of whom were sitting on a tarp at the event, clad in white hard hats, will enter Kate Furbish as second graders in 2020, ushering in a new chapter for Brunswick schools.

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