New Jackson state-of-the-art school officially opens

Brian Perry (left), Dr. Judith Minor (center-left), Fort Jackson Garrison Commander Col. John “Wes” Hankins (center-right) and Thomas Brady (right) are accompanied by Wynter Thompson, Gavin Collins, Yzbella Santo and Benjamin Marshall as they cut the ribbon to officially open the new Pierce Terrace Elementary School Feb. 12. (Photo by Jackie Pennoyer/Army Corps of Engineers
February 20, 2020

Students of Pierce Terrace Elementary School returned from the Christmas holiday to a new, state-of-the-art facility. Hundreds of parents, teachers, Department of Defense Education Activity officials and students gathered at the new school Feb. 12 to celebrate the official opening of the new school.

“It is my honor and privilege to extend a warm welcome to everyone attending today’s ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Pierce Terrace Elementary School,” said Raymond Burke, school principal. “I hope each of you remembers the significance of this moment in the history of Fort Jackson. Made with modern resources, environmentally friendly materials and an open concept which serves as a platform for our faculty and student’s creativity, collaboration and communication.”

It has been more than 50 years since Pierce Terrace originally opened its doors to students and educators. Throughout the years the school has withstood weather, good and bad, as well as time to provide Fort Jackson military children a safe learning environment. Memories have been made within the halls of the school.

Now students and staff will create new memories in a building designed with children and community in mind. The open concept allows students to mingle and meet students they normally would not see through the day and staff an opportunity to keep a sharper eye on students.

The materials used to create the building come from renewable and recyclable materials. The use of renewable materials and modern technology will help to maintain a consistent environment within the building utilizing less energy and water. Students and staff will stay warmer in winter months and cooler during the state’s famously hot summers.

As Burke finished welcoming guests and giving a brief history of the new building, students of various ages took the stage to perform a musical number titled “Welcome to our School.”

“Welcome, to our school, to our school,” the students sang. “We hope you like it too.”

Department of Defense Education Activity Headquarters Director Thomas Brady was invited to the podium by Burke after the students finished welcoming guests with their song.

“Some of you read the program today and said “Hey, Tom Brady is going to be here today.” I’m sorry to disappoint,” Brady said jokingly. “But, I bring greetings from all over the world from DODEA staff and children.”

Brady recognized the commitment of DODEA senior staff and officials to continue the rigorous process of resource allocation to continue to provide new schools and resources to the children of the country’s service members. He said the Department of Defense has been committed to children’s education over the last 10 years by allocating over $4 billion dollars to help construct new schools such as Pierce Terrace.

He also spoke of Staff Sgt. Larry Pierce, a Soldier assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade. Pierce used his body to smother the blast of an anti-personnel mine in Ben Cat, Vietnam on Sept. 20, 1965. Pierce forsake his own life to save his fellow Soldiers and was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions. He is also the school’s name sake.

“This gives us a wonderful opportunity to reflect,” Brady said. “His valor and courage continues to be a living legacy through the naming of this school.”

As guest speakers each made their congratulations and welcoming messages to parents, staff and students came to an end, students were lead back to their classrooms to resume their day of learning. Parents and guests were invited to a reception of snacks and refreshments inside before being invited on a guided tour of the new school.

“When dreaming, we should always dream big,” said Fort Jackson Garrison Commander Col. John “Wes” Hankins. “We see all around us that the dream that so many people helped to catch and turn into a reality is a truly an impressive educational facility.”

Pierce Terrace students Wynter Thompson, Gavin Collins, Yzbella Santo and Benjamin Marshall representing each grade level accompanied the leaders in cutting the ceremonial ribbon to officially dedicate the school.