The Tuscaloosa City Schools System cut the ribbon on the new and improved Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School on the birthday of the institution's namesake Monday morning.

The celebration was the final step in TCS' years-long $170 million capital plan for modernizing its schools. At the elementary school, that meant the construction of a state-of-the-art, energy-efficient building and the purchase and implementation of new technologies for student learning.

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"For far too long, the building that once stood here did not look like a beacon of hope that many of Dr. King's speeches pointed us to," TCS Superintendent Dr. Mike Daria said.

Although the ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Monday morning, the students and teachers have been in the new $18.2 million MLK Jr. Elementary since last fall.

The 76,400 square foot building includes 27 classrooms, a computer lab, an art room, a music room, a project room and a central courtyard.

"To our community, I say to you 'Look out!' as Martin Luther King Elementary School is on its way to fulfilling its mission of having students all grow academically, while also building students with strong character," Daria said. "The spirit of excellence that is in this school will no doubt transform the lives of young people who have strong character, integrity, and intelligence."

In a passionate speech, District 1 Board Member Matthew Wilson recalled King's own words and examined them in a modern context.

"All in all, this dream has become a reality in West Tuscaloosa," Wilson said. "We know that brick and mortar does not educate our children... Therefore we must invest, continue to invest in our teachers as they invest in our children. Today, as I conclude my remarks, remember the words of Dr. King: 'If you can't fly, then run. If you can't run, then walk. If you can't walk, then crawl. But whatever you do, keep it moving forward.' Keep moving forward to ensure that no child, black, white, Asian, Mexican, is left out. Keep moving forward."

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