Dozens braved the wind and cold at Wayne Preparatory Academy Wednesday to celebrate the school breaking ground on its planned middle school building.

Part of the charter school's plan to add one grade each year, the new school will house sixth, seventh and eighth-grade students as Wayne Prep adds them. Wayne Prep currently includes grades kindergarten through sixth grade.

Sharon Thompson, chair of the Wayne Prep board of directors, said the school is expected to be ready by the middle of the 2017-2018 school year. She said she wasn't yet sure when construction on the building would actually start.

In the meantime, the school will continue with its plan to add the seventh grade, even while the building is still under construction. Ms. Thompson said the school is looking at off-site locations to house students in the upper grades, but has not selected one yet.

The groundbreaking itself was a relatively brief ceremony, lasting around 20 minutes. After a short foreword by Ms. Thompson in which she called the middle school building "a long time coming," Kate Daniels, president of the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce, stepped forward to make a few remarks.

Mrs. Daniels praised Wayne Prep for their enterprise, and said the chamber is always looking for opportunities to support new businesses coming to the area. She congratulated the school on how far it has come since she first saw it in 2014.

Following additional remarks by Goldsboro civic leader Octavius Murphy, the school's board of directors, along with special guests, financial partners and executive director Todd Forgette, picked up their shovels and threw dirt to cement the groundbreaking.

With that, everyone gratefully huddled back inside for warmth and refreshments. Ms. Thompson said that Wayne Prep currently has a charter for kindergarten through eighth grade. Once the school adds those grades and can prove that it is an effective institution, it will be able to apply for K-12 charter. Once that is done, the school plans to add a high school building as well.

Currently, most of the students attend class in large trailers or "cottages" as the school calls them. Ms. Thompson said the intention is to replace those structures with a permanent elementary school building, but no concrete plans for the building outside of the location have been put forth yet.

Wayne Prep is currently accepting applications for the 2017-2018 school year through May.