Grand opening Saturday for new Easthampton High School to celebrate a school ‘with the future in mind’
EASTHAMPTON — With demolition of the city’s 53-year-old high school complete, school leaders are hosting a grand opening Saturday for the new $39.2 million high school building on Williston Avenue.
A groundbreaking ceremony marked the opening of the new high school last spring, but organizers say this weekend’s event offers the community a chance to celebrate the final phase of the project and thank those involved.
“It’s wonderful to see this come to a conclusion,” Mayor Michael A. Tautznik said this week. “This is a building that will fit the educational needs of children for years. It’s a building with the future in mind.”
At Saturday’s grand opening, which starts at 11 a.m. in the high school quadrangle, a two-foot stainless steel time capsule containing items related to the building project will be sealed in an outer wall of the new high school. The capsule will be opened at a time to be determined by future school leaders.
Building Committee Chairman Michael Buehrle said the event will also include musical performances by the EHS band, speeches by state and local officials, a ribbon cutting by former high school class presidents and a tour for local residents until 1 p.m.
“And we’ll have cake,” Buehrle said, provided by Mike Superson of Big E’s Supermarket.
The new 110,000-square foot high school, which opened for classes in April, is the first school constructed in Easthampton in more than three decades. Built by Fontaine Bros. of Springfield — which also built the city’s Public Safety Complex — the new school houses larger classrooms with up-to-date technology, a modern fabrications lab, a 376-seat auditorium and a gym that can hold 1,000 spectators.
The building is the result of 15 years of planning by school and community leaders and an $18 million debt-exclusion override, which voters overwhelmingly approved in 2010 to pay for the city’s portion of the project. The state is paying 64 percent of the costs of the new high school, or about $25.73 million.
At a building committee meeting Monday, members listened to reports from project managers about the final phase of the high school project, including landscaping, pavement markings and some needed changes to the air conditioning and drainage systems.
Bottom line: the project remains on time and under budget, managers reported.
The committee also heard complaints from three abutting property owners about noise from a ventilator in the new building, bright lights from the school’s Cafe Commons area and traffic on the service road behind the high school.
Buehrle said the noise and lighting issues will be addressed within the next three weeks. Principal Vito Perrone agreed to check with police about enforcing parking and traffic rules around the high school.
As they reviewed items destined for the time capsule — including the 2013 EHS commencement program, a school yearbook and newspaper articles about the new building — committee members asked about one artifact they did not see on the display table: a time capsule said to have been sealed in the old high school building.
“We heard legends about that but we never identified a location,” said Tautznik, who is a member of the EHS class of 1971. “Our contractor was diligent — he actively looked for a capsule. But he didn’t find it.”
School Superintendent Nancy Follansbee said that won’t happen with the capsule to be installed at Saturday’s event.
“We are all in agreement,” Follansbee said in an email following the meeting. “We will let the next generation determine a date for opening the time capsule. And we will make sure everyone will know where to find it.”