Temporarily setting their differences aside, leaders of the East Baton Rouge Parish school system and advocates for failed legislation that would have shifted much of the superintendent’s and School Board’s power to principals gathered Thursday morning on the grounds of the demolished Lee High School to break ground for a new $54.5 million Lee High.

An emotional Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, former class president at Lee High, said the new Lee High will help develop skilled workers for companies like IBM through programs that concentrate on specialized fields such as digital media, biomedicine and science, technology, engineering and math.

“It’s so nice to be here on something we can unite together to make happen,” a clearly emotional Claitor said at the groundbreaking for the school, which is set to open in January 2016.

East Baton Rouge Parish Superintendent Bernard Taylor shifted Lee High’s construction plan from a traditional high school to more of a community college-style campus that focuses on project-based learning and career readiness. He expressed hope Thursday that business and community leaders will use the project to move forward from recent political disputes.

“Maybe as we shovel this dirt, we can bury the past and work to create a good school district for all of our students,” Taylor said.

Milton J. Womack Inc., of Baton Rouge, is the general contractor.