PERU – When the now-closed Peru Elementary School was updated in 1998, former Superintendent John Turner of the Peru school system said as much as could be done to a school its age had been done. The next step was likely a new school.

Ten years later, and the merging of the former Peru School Department with neighboring SAD 21, proved to be the only way a new school would be built.

On Thursday night, before nearly 150 parents, current and past SAD 21 board members, contractors and community members, the new $14 million school was dedicated.

Turner, now retired, was the featured speaker.

“All I could say when I walked in was ‘wow,'” Turner said.

The school is thoroughly up-to-date.

“No matter how beautiful the school is, it all depends on the teachers. Both Canton and Peru have dedicated teachers. Buildings do not educate. Teachers do,” he said.

The event, which culminated in the ceremonial cutting of a ribbon to mark the official opening of the school by current SAD 21 board Chairman Ben McCollister of Canton and past SAD 21 board Chairman Rick Colpitts of Peru was a time to recognize the staff, community, and contractors, who current SAD 21 Superintendent Tom Ward said worked extremely well together over the two-year construction project.

“We can’t say thank you enough,” Ward said.

Receiving repeated thanks for the almost endless hours she put in to pull parent-teacher groups together, and to see that children from the four towns who once attended three elementary schools could successfully attend one school, was Dixfield Elementary School Principal Kathy Richard.

“She was very instrumental. She brought the staffs together. She was totally immersed in this project,” Ward said. “This was her finest year in education.”

The new school, built with virtually all state money, houses about 350 students from kindergarten through grade five.

Receiving special thanks were Peru Selectman Jim Pulsifer and his wife, retired Peru Elementary School teacher, Mary, who had donated $5,000 for use in the new library.

McCollister said the dedication was a chance for all four communities to come together to celebrate.

“This building represents the four communities’ responsibility to educate the next generation,” he said.

The Maine State Board of Education will also have a chance to see the new building when it holds its next meeting there on Oct. 15.

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