Easthampton celebrates new high school’s grand opening
The class presidents of Easthampton High School, senior Tyler Lucia, far left; junior Bryan Delaney, center; sophomore Courtney Urban, right; and freshman Anthony Redfern cut a symbolic ribbon during the school's grand opening ceremony Saturday morning. Speakers at the ceremony included State Representative John Scibak and Easthampton Mayor Michael Tautznik (pictured between Delaney and Urban). Purchase photo reprints »
Easthampton High School sophomore class president Courtney Urban, left, and junior class president Bryan Delaney, center, watch as senior class president Tyler Lucia deposits a time capsule into a space in the school's wall during a grand opening ceremony for the new school building Saturday morning. Purchase photo reprints »
Students, parents, building committee members, and others wait for the start of a grand opening ceremony for Easthampton High School's new building Saturday morning. The ceremony featured several guest speakers, including Easthampton Mayor Michael Tautznik and State Representative John Scibak, as well as a ribbon cutting and the depositing of a time capsule into a wall of the school. Purchase photo reprints »
Barbara Coopee, vice chair of the Easthampton High School Building Committee, looks at a plaque from the old school building before a grand opening ceremony for the new building Saturday morning. The plaque will be installed in the new building alongside the new plaque. Purchase photo reprints »
Easthampton High School student Hunter Lefebvre plays guitar with the school jazz group, the Bowties, before a grand opening ceremony for the new school building Saturday morning. Purchase photo reprints »
EASTHAMPTON — Standing in front of the new Easthampton High School building, School Committee Chairwoman Nancy Sykes remarked that the structure offers a visible symbol of the value the city places on education.
Sykes was among the local and state officials who offered their words of gratitude at the grand opening of the new building on Saturday. Over 100 community members, including faculty, students and parents were in attendance for the open-air ceremony that concluded in a ribbon cutting and followed with a tour of the new facility, which opened for classes in April.
The $39.2 million building at 70 Williston Ave. is the result of 15 years of planning by school and community leaders and an $18 million debt-exclusion override, which voters approved in 2010 to pay for the city’s portion of the project.
“It stands as a testament to taxpayers in Easthampton that education is important to this community,” said Barbara Hansberry, deputy director of the Massachusetts School Building Authority, also among the event’s speakers. The authority is paying 64 percent of the costs of the new school, or about $25.73 million.
When it came time to cut the ribbon, the speakers gathered around and the crowd leaned in close as the class presidents of each grade — freshman Anthony Redfern, sophomore Courtney Urban, junior Bryan Delaney, and senior Tyler Lucia — shared in the honors.
Lucia, 17, said the old building housed many good memories, but he is looking forward to creating even better ones in the new building.
Also part of the ceremony was the placing into the building’s outer wall of a time capsule filled with archival items such as yearbooks, newspaper articles, pictures, student projects on zip drives, DVDs, and letters to future generations.
Athletic director Jeff Sealander, who previously served as the high school principal before he retired from that position in 2009, served as chairman of a subcommittee that assembled the time capsule. There is no specified date for when the time capsule is to be opened, he said, but he hopes that when that time comes, those who open it will find a way to access the items that by then, might be old technology.
“We’re hoping that 50 years from now, people will be able to go to their storage room and find the kind of technology to open the zip drives and play DVDs,” Sealander said following the ceremony.
State Rep. John Scibak, D-South Hadley, recalled speaking to school Building Committee Chairman Michael Buehrle 11 years ago, when the new school was still a vision. He commended Buehrle, who currently has no children in the school system, for his dedication to improving education.
“Thank you for all your efforts, Michael,” Scibak said from the podium.
Buehrle was both grateful for and humbled by the recognition he received.
“I’m a little overwhelmed,” Buehrle said between posing for pictures with community members who approached him after the ceremony. “I’m just thrilled that it worked out the way it did.” He added that some of his grandchildren are now in the second grade, and that he is glad they will be able to enjoy the new building.
Also among the speakers at the event were Mayor Michael A. Tautznik and Superintendent of Schools Nancy Follansbee.
Inside the building following the ceremony, students and faculty who have been enjoying the new facility since April had a chance to share their excitement with community members who came in for a tour.
The new classroom of media arts teacher Eileen Claveloux contains 24 iMac desktop computers with 27-inch screens.
“Can you imagine making video or computer arts on monitors like this?” Claveloux remarked, sitting at one of the stations.
Claveloux, a teacher at the high school for eight years, said she previously taught her classes in a converted kiln room. Cables were all over the place, and there were not enough electrical outlets, she said.
“This is like light years from what it was,” said Glen Delaney, father of Easthampton High School junior and class president Bryan Delaney. Glen Delaney was stationed in Claveloux’s room to assist her during the tour.
Claveloux said the new machines and updated software, which includes recent versions of Adobe Photoshop and Final Cut Pro, will allow her to better do her job of not only teaching students the creative process, but how to use the different programs.
And the chairs are really comfortable, she added.
Other new additions include smart technology in every classroom, such as Epson BrightLink projectors and a “clicker” system that allows teachers to survey their students electronically, said high school Principal Vito Perrone. And every department now has access to a cart of over 20 laptops, he said.
Junior Kate Avardy, 16, said she is glad to see that in the new building, all teachers have access to the same technology. In the old building, she said, only a few teachers had projectors with smart technology.
“Only specific teachers would be able to do certain things,” she recalled.
Perrone, who will be starting his fifth year as principal, said he hopes the improvements in the new building will provide more opportunities for collaboration and project-based learning along with the use of technology in the classroom.
“This building is the platform upon which all that happens,” he said.
Other improvements include a new theater, which includes a catwalk with a control room and light board that students will learn to operate while working on school productions, Perrone said in between showing interested community members the new space. He noted that the previous theater was too small for elaborate productions, and the school had to hold musicals at White Brook Middle School.
Improvements to the new gymnasium include a climbing wall, basketball hoops that operate on an electronic lift, a larger fitness room, and a multipurpose room for activities such as yoga.
Tautznik told the crowd that he was proud of how much had been accomplished with the project in a relatively short amount of time.
“Thank you on behalf of a grateful community,” he said.