OGDEN — Walking down the hallways of the current Horace Mann Elementary building, the earliest portion built in 1954, you’ll occasionally encounter buckets catching drips from the ceiling.

Given the “waterfalls” the school has encountered indoors, as described by the school’s principal, Maridee Harrison, a little rain wasn’t enough to keep the school community from gathering to celebrate the groundbreaking of their new building Friday afternoon.

Harrison began her time at Horace Mann as a kindergartner 43 years ago, she said at the groundbreaking ceremony.

“As I got older, and decided what I wanted to do, I decided I wanted to be a teacher, because of the impact the teachers here at Horace Mann made,” Harrison said.

After she got her teaching degree, she applied for an open position at Horace Mann, and began her teaching career there, where she spent more than 17 years working in various roles before becoming an administrator.

Harrison wasn’t the only Horace Mann alum at the ceremony.

Slade Opheikens, president of R&O Construction, the builder of the new school, also attended Horace Mann, as did Ogden’s mayor, Mike Caldwell, according to the city’s chief administrator, Mark Johnson, during the ceremony.

“We’re proud to be able to do (the project),” Opheikens said. “We’re based in Ogden. We call Ogden home, and it’s nice to be able to do stuff in our backyard.”

The new building was made possible by a bond supported by voters in November 2018.

“I’ve been in politics ... a lot of years,” Johnson said. “It takes a lot of courage for the politicians on the school board to step forward and say, ‘Yep, we’re going to go after a bond — we’re going to go ask the members of our community to vote and say ... we’ll let you tax us to build this new school.’”

Horace Mann Elementary currently serves 435 students, Harrison said, but the new building will have room for growth — and the population of children in the area is growing. This year, the school had more children enroll than expected.

The new building will also be safer in the event of an earthquake, since it will be built according to current seismic code, while the older building does not meet current code, according to Jer Bates, director of communications for Ogden School District.

The new building is scheduled to open in fall 2021, and school will remain in session at the old building while the new one is built, a standard practice when rebuilding schools.

It will have new features like central project areas surrounded by classrooms, called learning pods. The classrooms will have a glass wall, so that teachers will be able to keep an eye on students working on projects in the central area, said Cliff Curtis, an architect with MHTN Architects who is working on the project.

The school also got to have input in the design. Harrison said that one of the features she’s most excited about are walls that kids can write on with dry erase marker, including the glass walls as well as other walls that have dry erase board on them.

The school will also be getting new technology, she said.

“We’re excited to have a building that will be able to take us into the 21st century,” Harrison said.

Contact reporter Megan Olsen at molsen@standard.net or 801-625-4227. Follow her on Twitter at @MeganAOlsen.

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