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South Boston celebrates completion of first phase of learning center

A vision that has taken five years to materialize was realized Thursday morning during a ribbon cutting for the $685,000 South Boston-Halifax Early Learning Center.

Phase I is now complete, and Thursday’s ceremony officially reopened the new building.

Future Phase II plans call for renovation of the 1930 era and historic section of the old school into a year-round community center facility for exclusive use by the town’s parks and recreation department.

Phase III will include the construction of a new modern gymnasium to accommodate the overload of indoor recreation demand currently experienced at the South Boston Recreation Center on Broad Street.

According to Executive Director for Administration Valdivia Marshall, school personnel will begin moving the Parent Cottage or the Parent Center the first of March and then setting up the computer lab in the newly renovated early learning center.

“We’ve already been in touch with the technology department, and they are all ready to go,” said Marshall.

The 4-year-old program will be moved, but the early childhood program will not be moved until next year due to students being spread out over the county.

“We expect to make this an easy transition for the teachers and students. We hope to have the teachers’ move phased in,” said Marshall referring to a date sometime in March.

South Boston Town Manager Ted Daniel, South Boston Mayor Carroll Thackston and Superintendent Paul Stapleton all spoke to the small crowd of school and town officials at the ribbon cutting Thursday.

Daniel recognized several of those who supported the early learning center including Vice Mayor Ed Owens, South Boston Recreation Director Matthew McCargo, Councilman Morris Bryant, Councilman Bill Snead, Councilwoman Connie Manning, Councilman Coleman Speece, Stapleton, Marshall, Principal Priscilla Price and the support received from the school board and board of supervisors.

“B & B Consultants made a dream come true…and McDannald subcontractors did a magnificent job and worked on a tight schedule,” said Daniel.

Thackston said, “We wouldn’t be here today without the town manager,”

Stapleton told the crowd this is not an overnight project. “This is a town project…you made it happen. When everyone is watching March Madness with basketball, we’re going to have March madness with our 4 year olds, and we’re going to get them all back in there.”

After Jimmy Epps with B & B Consultants presented an American flag to Stapleton to be flown on the front flagpole, lead architect Tom Starbuck invited everyone to the open house and gave a tour of the newly renovated early learning center.

“This is truly an exciting day, a dream come true. I want to thank the town for their vision,” said Marshall.

At the conclusion of the tour, Stapleton said, “I’m so proud of the community… this building will house 4 year olds to 90 year olds. What a good environment for kids.”