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Community tours of new Easthampton High School building slated for late April

Local residents eager for a look inside the new $39.2 million Easthampton High School building on Williston Avenue won’t have to wait much longer.

Administrators say community tours are being planned for the end of the month, some time after staff, students and teachers move into the new three-story building over spring break, April 15 to 22.

Tour dates and times will be posted on the district’s website, www.easthampton.k12.ma.us/. A formal opening ceremony for the new building — the first public school constructed in Easthampton in three decades — will be held in the fall.

In the leadup to the move over spring break, private tours are being conducted for EHS students, members of the City Council, School Committee, Building Committee and other building project VIPs. Teachers are being trained in the use of new projectors, computer display boards, automatic room dividers and other building features.

High School Principal Vito Perrone said EHS’s 470 students will return from vacation to a new high school with a “state-of-the-art” gym, theater, fabrications shop, robotics lab and art studio, among other elements.

“The theme is flexibility of purpose,” he said. “It’s amazing what can go on in here, the creativity we will see.”

The Class of 2013 will hold graduation ceremonies in the new building. The existing 52-year-old high school will be torn down over the summer.

During the move-in and demolition phases, Perrone said public access to the new high school will be via Geryk Court while school buses will use Bryant Avenue. Parents who are dropping off or picking up students are asked to follow the existing one-way traffic pattern around the parking lot off of Geryk Court.

The new high school is being constructed by Fontaine Bros. Inc. of Springfield, the same firm that built Easthampton’s public safety complex more than a decade ago.

In 2010, city voters approved an $18 million debt exclusion override to pay for the city’s portion of the new high school. The state is paying 64 percent of the project costs.

Festivals opens

The sixth annual Elementary School Cultural Festival opens tonight at 6 with a performance of Japanese taiko drumming in the Pepin School auditorium. Afterwards, school families are invited to the gym to experience artwork, food, games and activities from more than 20 countries around the globe. Student projects will also be on display.

‘We the People”

Easthampton High School’s “We the People” civics team may not have made it to the nationals in Washington, D.C., this year. But they are still having an influence on the competition.

That’s according to Easthampton School Committee member Peter Gunn, coach of the Williston Northampton School’s 25-member We the People Team, which is headed to the national contest later this month.

When Gunn needed judges for a recent We the People practice showcase at Williston for championship teams from around New England, he turned to EHS for help. Half of the 20 judges for the March 23 event came from Easthampton, Gunn said.

They were EHS history teacher Kelley Brown; juniors Taylor Dadmun, Tristan Koopman, Zach Lewis, Tom Palaschak, Mike Palaschak, Willow Ross and sophomore Jordan Burt; School Committee Chair Nancy Sykes, and EHS student teacher Allison Evans, a graduate student at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Last year, an EHS We the People team led by Brown won the statewide civics championship and went on to represent Massachusetts at the nationals. Dadmun, Koopman, Lewis, Ross and twins, Mike and Tom Palaschak were members of that team.

This year, the group from Williston will be heading to Washington, D.C., April 27 to 28, as a “wild card” team, following their performance in the statewide competition in Boston in January. EHS also competed there but did not advance.

Williston last won the Massachusetts We the People championship in 2001.

Gunn praised the volunteers from EHS who helped with last month’s civics showcase, calling them “a treasure in our community” in a recent email.

“These fine folks gave up seven hours of a sunny Saturday afternoon to help other young people from across New England learn to better understand and express their understanding of the U.S. Constitution,” Gunn said. “They did all of this out of a simple desire to help — no pay, no credits, nothing more than the gratitude of scores of students and teachers and the satisfaction of a job well done.”

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