QUINCY -- Standing in front of the brand-new Thomas S. Baldwin Elementary School, Quincy School Board member Mike Troup had two key words to say to the community: Thank you.
"This is an exciting day for Quincy Public Schools, our students and for our taxpayers," Troup said at Saturday's grand opening for the fourth of five new K-5 elementary schools.
"When we asked for your vote for the school bond referendum, we stated we could spend $14.5 million to build a new Baldwin or spend a bit over $18 million with health life safety money to make the necessary repairs to the over 50-year old building here. We made the best and right decision," he said. "Thank you voters. Thank you taxpayers."
The Quincy High School Marching Blue Devils played and the large crowd applauded during the ceremony celebrating the new school and the community which supported it.
"What you've done for the kids of this community needs to be recognized not only in the state of Illinois but in our entire nation," Superintendent Roy Webb said. "The example you led with is an example for all communities."
A complex building project -- overseen by general contractor Maas Construction and Architechnics -- wove together the existing gym, auditorium and cafeteria with 55,000-square-feet of new space to create the school.
"It's very special that they retained the Baldwin name. We're excited about the new school," said Kris Keller, whose grandmother Betty Baldwin Keller was the granddaughter of Baldwin, an aviator, innovator and inventor.
"I hope our team can continue his sense of adventure and the dedication he did in being creative and innovative and never giving up," Baldwin Principal Jim Sohn said. "We'll do our very best to help empower the students."
Fourth-grader Evan Baker walked through the hallways, excited for the start of school. "It'll be new. It's really big," Evan said.
"They're going from Madison, the opposite end of the spectrum, the oldest school, to the newest school which is kind of cool," Evan's mom Quinn Baker said. "It's nice just to show the community we care about our kids."
For Baldwin staff members, the grand opening brought the project full circle from planning and dreaming to moving last year to the former Ellington and Madison schools and then into the new building which is ready for the first day of classes on Thursday.
"It's just a really good feeling," teacher Judie Mehaffy said. "We're home."
Four-year-old Emmalea Holt isn't far from home when she's at the new school.
"We live down the street. We witnessed it from start to finish. It's been exciting for our little girls just to watch it be built," Emmalea's mom Lauren Holt said. "My husband I went to school here. It's really neat our little ones will get to come and experience the same school but yet in a better environment that we hope will enrich their learning experience."
The learning experience will draw on support through the Quincy Public Schools Foundation, which announced the $10,000 goal was met for the D. Paul Saunders Circle of Investment for Thomas S. Baldwin Elementary School in honor of the Baldwin Intermediate and Madison School PTAs.
"We're really standing on the shoulders of their forethought," QPS foundation Executive Director Kent Embree said. "We have fully funded the endowment to start working on and building to give back to Baldwin Elementary School."
Incoming fourth-grader Coltyn Schutte said it's nice that the students from the two different schools last year will combine into the new Baldwin.
"I love it," he said.
So did his mom, Kristin Bradsahw.
"It looks good," said Bradshaw, who was a student at the former Baldwin. "The old school while it as nice and had a lot of memories, it's good that Quincy has decided to invest in new schools and safe schools for the kiddos."