Close up of students signing a silver construction beam.

Highlands, Pine Estates elementary fifth-graders make their mark on future school building

Oct. 27, 2023 –  The names of more than 100 Highlands and Pine Estates elementary fifth-graders will forever be etched into the history of the new Highlands Elementary School.

That is because these students had a special opportunity to sign their names on a construction beam that will be placed prominently in the new school, which is scheduled to open in August 2024.

Organizers say this event helped forever connect the current fifth-graders to a school they won’t attend since they will be in sixth grade when it opens.  

Highlands Principal Natalya Richie-Graham said she is grateful to the school’s construction company, Charles Perry Partner Inc. (CPPI), for helping to organize this field trip. She said seeing her students experience this was priceless.

“Getting an opportunity to see them sign a piece of history was very rewarding, energizing, exciting, and made me happy,” said Richie-Graham. “Some of the children would have never had this experience if it was not for this reconstruction of the new Highlands Elementary, and this is something that they can carry with them for a lifetime.”

The beam will be placed in the elevator shaft of the new school, which will combine both Highlands Elementary and Pine Estates Elementary students when it opens.

“It’s very exciting, because I won’t be at the school next year, and I think that it’s pretty cool that I still get to be a part of the school even though I’m not physically there,” said Isabella McCleod said, a fifth-grader at Highlands Elementary. “It’s incredible how they want us to be a part of the school forever.”

Another fifth-grader, Imani Morgan, echoed that excitement for herself and her siblings.

“My sister goes here, and this will be a good opportunity for the whole school next year,” Morgan said. “I’m excited because I never had my name on a school before.”

Meka Acholonu, one of the district’s project managers, said this event really put the project in perspective.  

“The students get to have an actual stake in the project, and it gives them a little piece of the project itself,” said Acholonu.

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