By John Higgins
Beacon Journal staff writer
A children's choir sang the school song at a dedication ceremony for the new Leggett Community Learning Center on Thursday.
This was a celebration that was a long time coming for the neighborhood just south of the University of Akron.
''Tonight's dedication is actually a little bit overdue,'' said Akron Public Schools Superintendent David James. ''This neighborhood hasn't seen a new school for over 120 years.''
The new $9.2 million building that welcomed students at the start of school replaces the original Leggett elementary built in 1889. The school is named after Akron's first superintendent of schools, Mortimer D. Leggett, who served from 1847 to 1849.
One of his descendants, Karen Leggett, 60, came back to her hometown from Washington, D.C., to attend the dedication Thursday.
''The original Mortimer is my great, great, great uncle,'' she said.
She was sad to see the old building being demolished this week.
''But the opportunities now, with technology being so important to education, you simply can't do that in a 120-year old building,'' she said. ''So, the opportunities here for these kids, and to have it
in this neighborhood with the diversity of kids and the need so great, it's wonderful.''
Some of the students at Leggett are learning English as a second language with just more than 10 percent considered to have limited English proficiency. The school had a 95 percent poverty rate the last time elementary schools in Akron collected poverty data in 2003.
Nevertheless, the school received an effective rating for last year's performance, passing the third- and fourth-grade math and reading tests (but not fifth grade) as well as the state attendance requirement.
Principal Philomena Vincente congratulated the students dressed in green T-shirts donated by The Chapel that said New House, Same Family for their work in their last year in the old building.
''We realize this did not happen because of the facilities we had, it happens because of the teachers,'' Vincente said. ''And this year, with the same staff, the new facility has so much to offer, that I have high expectation for my students to surpass the high standard that they set last year.''
Vincente also commended the many community partnerships Leggett has forged, including relationships with the University Park Alliance, The Chapel, Temple Israel, the Lake Center Christian School, Hale Farm & Village, the University of Akron and Akron Children's Hospital.
The school is one of four new or renovated Akron schools that opened this fall, part of the nearly $800 million school construction program.
The state is paying for 59 percent of the basic cost of the nearly $800 million program, with a voter-approved city income tax increase covering the rest. The schools double as community centers for public use after hours.
Portage Path Elementary and the National Inventors Hall of Fame middle school already have been dedicated.
The newly renovated East High School will be dedicated at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 30.