|By Chris Maza
An artist's rendering of what the new Longmeadow High School will look like when all phases of the project are completed.
Reminder Publications submitted photo
LONGMEADOW Longmeadow students entered their new educational home for the first time on Feb. 26 as the new Longmeadow High School's doors were officially opened for learning.
In a brief ceremony in front of the old high school before processing into the new one, Principal Lawrence Berte, Longmeadow Public Schools Superintendent Marie Doyle and School Building Committee Co-Chairs Peter Greenberg and Robert Barkett all took time to thank the many people involved in the project that started back in 2004.
"Although weather and construction conditions require us to make our comments brief today and also knowing that we will have an official opening ceremony in September, I feel that it is extremely important to say thank you to those responsible for making this state-of-the-art educational facility a reality," Berte said.
Doyle stated that the school now reflects the first-class learning that takes place within the walls of Longmeadow High School
"Longmeadow High School is now a state-of-the-art building for state-of-the-art students and staff. Longmeadow is one of the best school systems in the world," she said, explaining that when Massachusetts broke away from the rest of the country when taking the Trends in International Math and Sciences test in order to compare itself to the rest of the world and ranked third and fourth in the world in math and science respectively, Longmeadow was one of the top-scoring districts in the state.
"We now have a facility that reflects this excellence in education. Enjoy it, take care of it and make this place your home," she told the student body.
Barkett told the students that they would "be in a partnership" with the faculty to make Longmeadow High School more than a building, but as a welcoming place for learning.
"Please take pride in it and enjoy it," he said of the new building. "It is with mixed emotions that we leave the old school."
Barkett also added that the timetable for the opening was accelerated to allow current seniors to enjoy the building for a few months prior to graduation.
Greenberg lauded the foresight of the town, its residents and those involved in the building project in creating a learning environment that prepared students for today's world.
"Whether yesterday or today, our community has been blessed with the reputation of educational excellence," he said. "To maintain our high standards into the future, we foresaw a need to create a new 21st Century learning environment that allows your teachers to prepare you for a new tomorrow."
Upon entering the school, senior class president Noah Gurzenski expressed his excitement.
"It's looking great," he said. "It looks state-of-the-art and efficiently designed. It looks like a great place to learn and to grow and interact with students and teachers."
The next phase of the project will be the dismantling of a large portion of the old Longmeadow High School. Demolition is slated to begin in March.
Another portion of the building, dubbed the "1971 Wing" will be renovated and will include, in addition to the natatorium and athletic facilities already completed, more technology spaces, conference rooms, and the Longmeadow Public Schools District Office. The 1971 Wing will open in time in the fall with the beginning of the new school year.
Berte told Reminder Publications that an official ribbon cutting will take place in September when all of the work is completed, at which time dignitaries from the state, including Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) officials will be on hand.
Total cost of the bulding of the 185,000 square foot school, complete with an auditorium, media center, cafeteria, gymnasium, and 62 multipurpose classrooms is estimated to be approximately $78.4 million.
Those costs include all site work, construction of the new building, renovation of the 1971 Wing, and all contingencies,
The MSBA is expected to reimburse the town approximately $33 million, or 52 percent of eligible project costs.
Approximately $13 million spent will not be eligible for reimbursement, including the renovation of the 1971 Wing.
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