By Liz Premo, Atlantic News Staff Writer
Atlantic News, Friday, May 12, 2006
[The following article is courtesy of Atlantic News]
[Atlantic News Photo by Liz Premo]
HAMPTON -- It was an evening of superlatives — ranging from "great" and "tremendous," to "fabulous" and "beautiful" — when members of the Winnacunnet community gathered for an official ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the high school’s new 25-classroom math and science wing.
Close to 100 people were on hand in the lobby of the bright, spacious addition to witness the event and hear comments offered by SAU21 Superintendent Jim Gaylord, and Winnacunnet School Board Chairman Chris Singleton, and WHS Principal Randy Zito.
Winnacunnet school board members past and present joined town officials, staff from local agencies, members of school boards from surrounding towns, WHS faculty members and faithful supporters of the $26.85 million building project, which has brought many welcome and long-needed changes to the Winnacunnet campus.
Addressing the throng, Gaylord said it was "truly a very joyous and momentous occasion. We’ve waited a long time for this."
Gaylord noted that the "biggest cheer of all [came] from my office staff when the first portable went out last week." It was no secret to those in attendance that he was referring to the modular classrooms — some would say "eyesore" — which have been part of the school’s landscape for the last several years.
"This is a great night," said a beaming Singleton, the next person to speak from behind the podium. "The real hallmark, the real cornerstone of this addition is what you’re standing in right now."
He expressed gratitude to the Outreach Committee for their promoting the project, and to the 75 percent majority who voted in favor of it, saying "You all were so generous to provide the money we needed for this." He also took time to acknowledge local businesses who utilized their signs during voting season to encourage the public to "Please vote 'Yes’ for Winnacunnet."
Singleton provided a list of changes made possible with the building project. Not only did it add a sorely needed 145,000 square feet of learning space along with a new athletic facility, but it also provided new boilers and a new roof, asbestos abatement, and a new electrical system.
Renovations included transforming the former cafeteria into an arts center adjacent to the auditorium, and making the old gym into a spacious dining hall.
"We did all this work while school was in session," Singleton reminded everyone, offering particular praise to WHS staffers. "They had to grin and bear a lot," he said. "They saw the big picture — they hung together, they pulled together."
Singleton also gave kudos to architect Frank Marinace for a "tremendous job," and to the construction company, ProCon. "They did a fabulous job," he said.
"Winnacunnet has transformed before our eyes," said Zito, reading from a narrative he had penned, noting that WHS has come a long way from its beginnings as a small 450-student high school "in Homer Johnson’s cow pasture." He called the new and improved Winnacunnet a "community asset" and asserted that "we must maintain its legacy as a community asset."
Following Zito’s final comments and the celebratory ribbon cutting, those in attendance were invited to tour the new wing and the athletic facility, with WHS students acting as tour guides. Stops were made at classrooms along the way, where visitors and teachers alike marveled at the ample space, gleaming science lab stations, lines of brand new lockers and broad corridors.
Acknowledging the improvements that have been made so far, the finishing touches to come, the creation of an overall better learning environment for its students and a school which the community can be proud of, Singleton affirmed that the ultimate aim is "to make Winnacunnet one of the best schools in New Hampshire, and we really mean that. This is your high school."