GRANITEVILLE — Graniteville residents have been waiting many years for a school named in honor of their community.

Saturday, their wait ended.

The new Graniteville Elementary is the first school named after the community since its founder William Gregg established the Graniteville Academy in the mid-1800s.

A standing-room-only crowd of more than 100 residents, teachers, staff and Aiken County Public Schools officials filled the courtyard of the school's new cafeteria Saturday morning to cut the ribbon and dedicate the renovations and new construction at Graniteville Elementary.

“We have a long heritage of education in Graniteville. Let us all strive to keep that heritage going in this school,” said Dwight Smith, a member of the Aiken County School Board and a retired educator.

Gregg established the Graniteville Academy for the children of the employees who worked in his textile mills, the former Graniteville Company, Smith said.

“It was the first compulsory school district known in the nation, and that has channeled through the generations,” Smith said.

Michelle Padgett, the Graniteville Elementary's first principal, said she's looking forward to “just having kids in the building” on the first day of school, Aug. 19.

“It's a beautiful building, but the life comes when the kids come,” said Padgett, who attended Byrd Elementary in fourth and fifth grade and was the principal at the new Leavelle McCampbell Middle School, which she also helped dedicate, the last three years.

“We want our students to dream and be inspired and challenged to greatness. We want to give them the tools they need to be and do whatever they dream to be and do,” Padgett said. “This school is your school. This is our community school.”

The Graniteville Elementary school building was the original Byrd Elementary and later the school district's adult education center.

The renovations to the classroom wings give a modern look to the mid-20th-century design, when the school was built. A concrete courtyard between the wings has been replaced with landscaped green space that can expand learning spaces to the outdoors.

Natural light floods through a wall of windows that face west in the new cafeteria, and graduated shades of cool blues give an ombre effect to the walls.

The school has a new entrance to help take vehicles off Ascauga Lake Road, and double fencing secures the property.

All renovations and new construction were completed within the school district's existing budget in seven months, said Dr. Sean Alford, the superintendent of Aiken County Public Schools.

“I see young faces in the crowd and parents and families who are going to be participants in the magic that's going to happen here at Graniteville Elementary,” he said. “All of these things are for you. The teachers, staff and leadership at this school have open arms, and they're ready not only to support you but also to serve you and provide guidance for our students.”

Larry Wood covers education for the Aiken Standard.

A native of Aiken, Larry Wood covers education for the Aiken Standard.