FAIRFIELD — It wasn’t just town officials getting the honor of tossing dirt at the groundbreaking of Holland Hill Elementary School on Thursday morning.

Twelve students, two per grade chosen by school officials, donning small hardhats and size-appropriate red shovels, dug into a large pile of dirt where a decades-old playground once stood to mark the start of an $18.5 million renovation and expansion of the school.

One of the updates officials chose highlight at the ceremony was that the school will have air conditioning after the 18-month to two-year project is complete.

“This time next year, you guys will be cool,” said Superintendent of School Toni Jones to several hundred students, parents, teachers and construction workers gathered for the event.

Jones said on a recent hot day, the air conditioning shut down at the school district’s central offices and it made her think of the students at Holland Hill.

“I was thinking of Holland Hill, I really was,” Jones said.

First Selectman Mike Tetreau, who attended Holland Hill as a child, pointed to where he played ball on the playground and a couple of his classrooms that could be seen from the podium set up at the rear of the school.

“I’m pretty sure if there was air conditioning when I was in school, I would have gotten better grades,” Tetreau said.

The project calls for the addition of five classrooms, along with a general music room, new lockers for fourth- and fifth-graders, special education resource rooms, an expanded kitchen area, and a new performance platform/instrumental music classroom space.

The central office area will be expanded to allow for controlled visitor access and a nursing office. All bathrooms will be made ADA compliant, all existing lockers will be replaced and a new gym floor installed.

Outside, the southwest parking area will be reconfigured and parking increased to 89 spaces, plus 12 parent drop-off/pickup spaces. A security access driveway will be built along the southeast side of the building, and play areas renovated with new equipment.

Principal Molly Farrell, who is in her first year at Holland Hill, said she did as any adult would when asked what groundbreaking meant by a student.

“I Googled it,” she said.

She said she came across a definition of the word.

“I stopped on pioneer. You guys are pioneers,” she said, pointing at the students in front of her.

jferrari@hearstmediact.com