Dyess Elementary Topping Out Ceremony from Parkhill on Vimeo.

Dyess Elementary students during the topping-off ceremony for the new school construction, Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020, in Abilene, Texas.

Because of restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the students being in quarantine, Abilene ISD was not able to host a traditional groundbreaking ceremony for the new Dyess Elementary School designed by Parkhill. The design process of the school was community-driven and included close collaboration with the school staff and administration, so it was decided to honor the project’s construction with a different kind of ceremony as soon as the school district could safely do so. A Topping Out Ceremony was chosen instead as a hands-on learning activity to involve the students and excite everyone about their new school. Parkhill hosted the ceremony with Collier Construction.

“All of you Dyess Jets may wonder why there is a Christmas tree on your new building,” said Ruppert Rangell, AIA, during the ceremony. “It’s not just for Christmas. The tradition of a Topping Out Ceremony can be traced back over a thousand years to Scandinavia when a tree was hoisted to the top of a building under construction for good luck. Today, it marks the time during construction when a building reaches it tallest height and honors the hard work of the team who construct the building.

Dyess Elementary students walk past the signed I-beam during the topping-off ceremony for the new school construction, Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020, in Abilene, Texas.

“In America, this has evolved to include construction workers signing a steel beam that will become part of the building. I am happy to say in addition to the men and women who are building this school, signatures of many of you students and teachers will also become part of this tradition by signing that beam, one that will likely be part of this building for over 50 years.”

The ceremony was hosted at the construction site of the school on December 16. As part of the event, hardhats were handed out to the students with the new Dyess Jets logo which was designed by Parkhill’s Vlad Gorbenko, AIA. The school is planned to open in the fall of 2021.