Students and their families gathered on the front lawn of Sarnia Christian School Friday morning to break ground on a $1.2-million addition.
The private Christian elementary school announced in February it was planning the construction project for the corner of Pontiac and Exmouth streets.
"We're still working with the city to get our permits and site plans all in place," said principal Len Smit.
"We're hoping to start in July with the demolition, and then the reconstruction."
The work, expected to be completed in March, will be the first major upgrading at the school in approximately 30 years.
The school that had 130 students this year has been operating for 60 years, and a section of the building set to be demolished dates back to the late 1950s.
"When it rains, we kind of worry how much water is going to come in," Smit said. "So, it's time."
That section of the school holds a library, staff room, resource room and storage space.
The larger addition set to replace it will have specialty classrooms designed to fit today's approach to education, including a fine arts classroom, a science room, band room, along with individual and small-group learning spaces, a common area, and a new main entrance.
Friday's ground-breaking follows several years of planning by school officials.
The way schools were designed in the 1950s doesn't always fit the way education happens today, Smit said.
"Our re-designed building has spaces for 21st-century learning," he added.
That includes providing spaces where students can work collaboratively in small groups, or quietly on their own, he said.
Construction will continue into the new school year, but isn't expected to create problems for students or staff, Smit said.
Because the school won't have a library during construction, the plan is to bus classes to the public library, he said.
So far, more than 75% of the money needed for the project has been collected by fundraisers.
Christian schools like Sarnia's aren't funded by the provincial government in Ontario, Smit noted during the ground-breaking ceremony.