SALAMANCA — Prospect Elementary School hosted a groundbreaking ceremony June 5 in the former library of the school that will soon be renovated into a modern office space.

This summer, the ongoing capital project will formally begin construction at the school, which also includes renovating the current office space into a new library and renovating and updated the kitchen and cafeteria.

During the ceremony, students and staff alike had the opportunity to take part in the ground breaking by donning hard hats and safety glasses and taking a swing at one of the walls in the old library with hammers.

District Superintendent Robert Breidenstein said getting the ongoing project underway had been a long time coming.

“We experienced some trials and tribulations in the design process and voting procedures from way back many years ago, and we’re finally at the start of some amazing work that’s going to happen at Prospect,” he said.

Addressing the students, Breidenstein said this project reminded him of Dory, a fish from “Finding Nemo,” who says “just keep swimming,” which is what the district had to do in order to make the work at the elementary school a reality.

In about a week, construction is going to begin on a modern, secure entrance to the building, to make sure “you, your teachers and all the guests who come to Prospect are safe,” he said. “The front of your building is going to look very different very soon.”

What the teachers and students are arguably most excited for is air conditioning in every room.

“When the warm weather comes, you’re not melting and sweating. Won’t that be better?” Breidenstein asked the students. “I think it’ll be better for the adults, too.”

Janet Koch, city council representative for Ward 5, where Prospect Elementary is located, said the school district is doing amazing things for the community like the capital project, something the city doesn’t have the funds to do.

Koch said each building is seeing improvements and the kids at Prospect will be able to use all the upgrades as they grew up and move to the intermediate and high schools.

“It’s all for the kids. Everything is being for the kids,” she added. “We have a great community, and working together is one of the best, most awesome opportunities.”

Susan Labuhn, Cattaraugus County legislator for the Salamanca area, said she and David Koch, the other county legislator for the area, graduated from the school district 45 years ago and have seen all the changes that have happened in the school so far.

“But what’s coming down the pike for you and future kids in this district is phenomenal,” she said. “I’m so happy to have been able to push lever to say ‘yes’ and move forward in Salamanca what needs to be done.”

Labuhn said the children will benefit from all the things included in the project for years to come thanks to everyone who collaborated on it.

After the guest speakers, Principal Gayle Pavone had students wearing hard hats and safety goggles go up to the wall designated for the groundbreaking and whack away with a hammer. Once the students made several marks in the wall, district teachers, staff and administrators — including Pavone and Breidenstein — also had the opportunity to take a hammer to the wall.

Also in attendance were Legislator David Koch, school board members Barb Sande and Kerry John and several Prospect teachers and staff members, some of whom also took a swing at the wall.

(Contact managing editor Kellen Quigley at