Oregon School District officials, students and Fitchburg dignitaries symbolically broke ground on a new elementary school in the new Terravessa development last week.

They better keep those shovels handy.

For the next several years, Fitchburg – which occupies the far northern portion of the district – will be the epicenter of construction projects, potentially including a middle school the district has already acquired land for.

With the student population expected to jump from around 4,000 to more than 6,000 by 2030, the district identified the fast-growing northern section as the most effective location for new schools to prevent overcrowding in existing schools.

The grades K-6 elementary celebrated June 6 near the Lacy Road interchange was seen as the most pressing need, with a new middle school planned for the mid-2020s to address the expected increase of students in that age group. The elementary school is expected to open ahead of the 2020-21 school year, with changes to attendance areas still to be determined.

Funded by the $47 million referendum approved in November, the district spent about $2.1 million for around 12 acres in the Terravessa development for the new K-6 elementary school, as well as $250,000 for road development. The district also spent $926,080 for around 107 acres off County Hwy. M in Fitchburg for a planned middle school.

Funding for the middle school would necessitate another referendum as early as 2022, according to district projections.

District superintendent Brian Busler said the June 6 groundbreaking ceremony was a “historical celebration” of the beginning of construction on the district’s fourth elementary school.

“This new school will help us continue the long-standing tradition of having schools closely located to where students live,” he wrote in an email to the Observer.

The approximately 130,000 square foot building will have state-of-the-art energy efficiencies, designed to be a “net zero” building, which means it will produce at least as much energy as it uses. Some energy efficiency features include solar panels, geothermal heating/cooling and a building location strategically placed to take advantage of natural light.

Staff were also included on the design team to ensure the school meets the district’s educational goals, and have incorporated features known to create relevant and empowering learning opportunities, with warm and inviting classrooms, group collaboration spaces, small group instruction rooms, an outdoor classroom, three inner courtyards and a butterfly garden.

Email Unified Newspaper Group reporter Scott De Laruelle at scott.delaruelle@wcinet.com.