The first step in more than $44 million in capitol improvements and expansion projects for Ardmore City Schools began Friday. That step — taken by Ardmore City Schools Superintendent Kim Holland — landed firmly on a shovel, officially breaking ground on the first of the bond issue projects approved by voters in April 2018.

The initial stage of the expansion — which is expected to take up to 15 months, barring delays — will add a dual purpose gymnasium and auditorium, new secure front entry, parent and staff parking as well as office space and conference rooms for various services, among other improvements to Ardmore’s Jefferson Elementary School. 

Holland said the extra space would make room for specialty services and give PE programs a place of refuge during inclement weather while reducing overcrowding in the school.

“Right now, we don’t really have room to do any of that,” Holland said. “Over the past several years, more students have come in and we’ve just outgrown the facilities.”

While the Jefferson improvements will address some of the district’s more immediate needs, the jewel of the bond project — The Westheimer Performing Arts Center — isn’t expected to break ground until the end of the year with an estimated completion time of up to 27 months.

“We are just really thankful the community is investing in this,” Holland said. “We think this is going to be something to be proud of that the community can really enjoy.”

A similar $48 million bond proposal for the 800-seat performing arts center initially failed to pass in 2017 before being reworked to include the Jefferson improvements. The revised proposal also allowed the project to proceed without increasing taxes, thanks to a $4 million grant from The Westheimer Foundation. It passed in April 2018 with more than 70 percent approval.