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Date of Issue: April 20, 2006

Island school dedication May 1

The long-awaited grand opening celebration for the new Anna Maria Elementary School is just around the corner. Construction crews are working around the clock to ensure all is ready for the May 1 dedication ceremony, says AME Principal Kathy Hayes.

In the past few weeks the area in front of the school has been transformed from a pile of dirt to a landscaped space filled with new trees, a newly paved bus loop and parking lot, covered walkways and light posts.

Hayes said parents should be pleased with the parking lot and driveway, which will allow three times as many cars to line up for student drop-off and pick-up times.

Light posts have gone up for the parking area and playgrounds, and covered sidewalks now lead from the parking areas to the school and connect the art/music wing and auditorium to the main building.

The grove of oak trees in front of the school will feature an outdoor dining area. Pavers from the former school’s patio will be used for the new picnic area. A donation from the Anna Maria Woman’s Club has helped ease the expense of putting the pavers in place, said Hayes.

The pavers will form an L-shaped patio to hold picnic tables. Hayes said the school hopes that local businesses will pitch in by sponsoring a table and an umbrella that will display their company name.

Hayes said much of the landscaping has been put in place, with more still to come. To date, 81 palms have been planted on campus, 24 new oaks have been installed, ferns and foliage for the front of the school building are expected to be coming soon.

A new sign has been ordered for the front of the campus. The marquee will face north and south to be visible to all passing traffic to display school announcements. Flagstone retrieved from the front pillars of the former school entryway will be used to create a planter around the new marquee. Hayes said the sign will be lighted at night.

Mote Marine Aquarium has delivered its donation of a saltwater aquarium for the school’s main lobby. Hayes said other schools in the county have freshwater aquariums, but she believes AME is the only school to have a saltwater aquarium.

The first few fish, including a yellow tang and rainbow-banded shrimp, have arrived in the tank, and more fish are coming. The donation is valued at $3,000.

More features still to come are the dolphin sculpture, which will hang in the 16-foot-tall clock tower, which will be the focal point of the covered walkway and entry. The sculpted mother and baby dolphin will be visible from all sides of the tower and protected by a metal roof. The art was donated by Trudy and Stewart Moon.

Hayes said the sculpture won’t be in place in time for the dedication, but drawings will be available for guests to view. The art should be in place when school resumes in the fall.

Another feature that won’t be in place until the fall is the peace garden. The designated area, between the auditorium and art/music building, is under scrutiny to determine how much stormwater runoff it will collect. Hayes said the school is working with master gardener Christine Callahan on the design of the peace garden.

Plans are being finalized for the May Day dedication ceremony, which will begin at 5:30 p.m. in the school auditorium. The program will lead guests from the auditorium to a ribbon-cutting ceremony and inside the main building where group tours will be arranged. A reception hosted by contractor W.G. Mills will cap off the event in the school cafeteria.

All members of the community are invited to attend the dedication ceremony.

For more information, call 708-5525.

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