Tiger Paw Ribbon Cutting Celebrates 100-Year History
On Sept. 15, 2022, 100 years after the building was constructed, Ozark School District, along with members of the Ozark community and Chamber of Commerce, cut the official ribbon to Tiger Paw Early Childhood Center, celebrating the renovation of the historic structure and expansion of the early childhood program.
“How exciting for our youngest learners to begin their educational journey in a building that has been in our District for so long,” Superintendent Dr. Chris Bauman said while welcoming the crowd. “I’m excited for that opportunity for a lot of reasons. One, because of the history and the connection to Ozark. But also, as many know, early education is so vitally important.”
The original building located just east of the Ozark downtown square was built in 1922 for $50,000. School Board President Sarah Adams-Orr said renovating the building saved a historical landmark, saved the taxpayers money, and addressed a need in the community.
“I have relatives who were some of the first students to enter this building and go to school here,” she said. “Revitalizing this building is symbolic of preserving Ozark’s history and heritage. Our community has always viewed education as an investment in our future generations.”
Ozark voters approved the $26.5 million no-tax-increase bond issue on the June 2, 2020, ballot as part of Operation Renovate & Innovate.
Assistant Superintendent of Operations Dr. Curtis Chesick said the renovation was made possible through the District’s partnership with architect Esterly Schneider & Associates designing it and general contractor DeWitt & Associates building it. The project wasn’t without challenges, including a pandemic, supply shortages and inflation, but the building opened to students for the 2022-23 school year. Chesick also touted the District’s technology, maintenance and custodial teams, as well as the City of Ozark.
“As you walk through this building today you will see the transformation. The renderings they made actually match what you’re going to see,” Chesick said. “Ozark is a great place to be and ‘Team Ozark’ now includes DeWitt and Esterly Schneider.”
Assistant Superintendent of Learning Dr. Craig Carson talked about the importance of early childhood education and said this building allows the District to serve more students.
“This building represents so much for students who need extra help to get into kindergarten. We know if you’re not starting kindergarten prepared, then you go into elementary and may be behind for multiple years,” he said. “This building allows us to prepare those students and to give them the resources they need.”
Tiger Paw Principal Elizabeth Dawson said her and her staff have been looking forward to this day for years, thanking the community, Board of Education, and school administration for seeing the value in early childhood education and supporting the expansion.
“The teachers and staff at Tiger Paw are some of the most knowledgeable and experienced. They have so much love for kids,” she said. “We’re all very excited to be able to serve more of our community with this expansion and help them build that foundation of early childhood.”