By Lis Premo, Atlantic News Staff Writer
Atlantic News, Friday, July 15, 2005
[The following article is courtesy of Atlantic News]
[Atlantic News Photos by Liz Premo]
HAMPTON -- When Winnacunnet High School’s Class of 2005 held graduation exercises last month, the cloudy skies above were cause enough for the scheduled outdoor ceremony to be moved indoors.
It was a significant move that heralded both an end to one era and the beginning of another, as this year’s graduates accepted their diplomas and bid goodbye to WHS within the walls of the school’s newly constructed athletic facility.
It didn’t matter that there were still a few loose ends to finish up here and there. The sight which greeted the people entering the doors to the spacious gymnasium was enough to leave many of them almost awestruck and murmuring one simple word: "Wow!."
"Wow" indeed. The facility is a thing of functional beauty and state-of-the-art efficiency, with classrooms, offices, locker rooms, a three-lane banked indoor track, training and conference rooms, plenty of skylights, a concession stand, and display cases, as well as a striking gymnasium worthy of Warrior pride.
According to Winnacunnet school board member Chris Singleton, the structure "is 95 percent complete [and] will be ready for school when the kids come back in late August."
But that’s not the only goal that Singleton is anticipating. The view from the windows on the second level of the athletic facility reveals another phase of the $26.85 million building project which generates even more excitement: A two-story addition, now under construction, that is becoming a permanent part of the existing school building.
"That’s the thing that we’re going to be most proud of," says Singleton, adding that the goal is to have the addition completed by December 2005. "New science and math classes; getting kids out of the modular classrooms and in by December, hopefully before the snow flies," he predicts.
According to Singleton, there’s an excellent chance that goal will be met thanks to "an unbelievably busy summer" at the construction site. Not only is the project work well underway, he says, but "it’s also on-schedule and on-budget. The best is yet to come."
The addition project is shaping up in a major way. Foundations have already been poured and exterior masonry work and pipe work are all progressing well. Heavy equipment, fencing and scaffolding have become a part of the WHS landscape as workers from ProCon attend to the huge task at hand. Inside the existing building, asbestos abatement is keeping the site off-limits to the public, and renovations are transforming the school’s former Dodge Gymnasium into a spacious cafeteria, along with other welcome, much-needed modifications.
Also undergoing major changes will be the traffic flow in and out of school grounds. Work is already well underway to create an access road for student vehicles, which will enter from Winnacunnet Road. Faculty, buses and visitors will continue to enter and exit via Park Avenue and Alumni Drive. Additional parking will be available on site, both near the tech-ed building and behind the athletic facility, where a set of doors provide immediate access to the nearby playing fields.
Gazing at the bustling construction site from the gymnasium’s second floor window, Singleton observes that "it’s really active over there right now, extremely busy. When the kids come back to school, that will all be done."
"We’re all very proud of this," he continues, adding that a ribbon cutting ceremony for the athletic facility is tentatively scheduled for the final Friday in August. "A lot of people put a lot of work into this. It’s money well-spent."
"We’re very, very proud of this as well," echoes Clerk of the Works Dick Murphy. He credits "unbelievably great teamwork" in the apparent success and overall progress of the project thus far.
That team effort includes the cooperation of WHS staff and students, who "have worked at being flexible and making this work," says Singleton. "It’s good stuff."
Acknowledging that WHS teachers "do a good job whether they’re teaching in a classroom or a trailer or on I-95," Singleton says that "to give them a good facility like this will help us give [students] an even better education. We want to do the best job for the kids."