FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- A project years in the making took another step closer to fruition as Fort Rucker officials broke ground Oct. 3 on a facility meant to invest in the minds of future generations.

Officials from the Department of Defense Education Activity, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, and U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker came together during the groundbreaking ceremony for the Edmund W. Rucker Elementary School, which is set to open in 2019.

"This new, 21st-century facility is a demonstration of the commitment of the Department of Defense Education Activity to achieve academic excellence while serving the unique needs of our military-connected children," said Dr. Lisa Coleman, DODEA Georgia/Alabama community superintendent. "DODEA's core values state that we believe that students are at the heart of what we do. Our learning environments are student centered, stimulating and relevant.

"As we prepare our students to utilize the 21st-century skills of critical thinking, collaboration, communication and creative problem solving, it is only fitting that our physical plant parent our needs," she continued. "This is not just the breaking of ground on a new school, but the objective of this project is to modernize our facilities, and continuously aim to transform the education environment through innovative and state-of-the-art technology."

The new school, which will be a 175,000 sq. ft., state-of-the-art facility, is being built on the site of the old school, which was built in 1963, and will house grades pre-k through sixth grade, bringing both the primary and elementary schools together under one roof. Having the students under one roof is something the schools have been working toward for some time and will better serve the mission of Fort Rucker schools, said Dr. Vicki Gilmer, principal of Fort Rucker Schools.

"One of the things I'm most excited about is that all of our families will be able to have their children in one location," she said. "To have the opportunity to be able to serve both of our families -- our younger children and older children -- in one location is going to be fantastic.

"This makes us one team and one community," said the principal. "Fort Rucker is truly above the best and our schools have been above the best, but our schools have been separate. We've had different goals and different strategies … and this give us the opportunity to combine our efforts and our talents into one mission for our kids."

The modernization of the school gives the opportunity to provide a new, fresh teaching environment for the children, which will enhance the way the students are able to learn, said Gilmer.

"The new school has been designed for critical thinking and collaboration -- all the skills that students are going to need in the future," she said. "It's really designed with an atmosphere that has children together learning instead of classrooms where they are stuck with one facilitator."

The new facility will feature "neighborhoods" instead of traditional classrooms where classes will be arranged in a more open room design, which will allow collaboration between classes and allow for an innovative, interactive way of learning.

"In this new 21st-century designed school, there are open neighborhoods where you have one gigantic area of learning, so there is lots more flexibility and lots more opportunity for learning," said the principal. "Kids can ebb and flow in different environments in their own neighborhood."

William G. Kidd, USAACE and Fort Rucker deputy to the commanding general, said that the new school is a great step forward in being able to provide world-class education for the children of Fort Rucker.

He added that although the facility will provide an environment that fosters learning in the modern era, the real task lies with the educators within those walls.

"There are many things that have changed in our world since 1963, but one thing is for sure -- our commitment to education to the betterment of our children," he said. "This is going to be a wonderful environment for our children, our educators and our volunteers to participate in the education process.

"And despite the great craftsmanship that the construction crews are going to do, and the tremendous architecture and thought that went into this building, it's just brick and mortar," said the deputy to the commanding general. "The magic occurs with the educators and volunteers who come here and interact with those children, but this facility will be worthy of that task and enable them to do things that they can't do now."