Recorder: "Shiny new Greenfield High School opens its doors"

Greenfield Public Schools in the News

First day of (new) school: Shiny new Greenfield High School opens its doors

By CHRIS CURTIS

Greenfield Recorder

Recorder Staff

Tuesday, September 1, 2015 

(Published in print: Wednesday, September 2, 2015)
 
Picture of the Greenfield High School
 
GREENFIELD — After two years of construction and millions of dollars, the new Greenfield High School opens in its entirety today for the first day of school in a building that looks nothing like the old.

Classes have been taught in portions of the old and new school as one was demolished to make way for the other, but the final veil was lifted this week with an open house Monday night for students and parents. The rear athletic fields and other outdoor elements of the $66 million project remain to be completed.

On the empty roof garden overlooking the back athletic field with the new track still under construction, incoming junior Alyssa Garvin was looking forward to the new science rooms and apprehensive about the sod athletic field. As a field hockey player, she had hoped for artificial turf and worries the new fields will degenerate as the old did. Overall, however, she saw improvement.

“Oh it’s a lot better, the old building was falling apart over us. Walk in and there’d be a new leak every day in the old building. At least this year hopefully that won’t happen,” Garvin said. Garvin, who is taking advanced placement chemistry among a slate of advanced courses, is excited to get into the new science rooms. Taking chemistry last year in a temporary room was frustrating, she said, with no facilities for hands-on work. The year before that, in the old lab, the sinks didn’t work.

The four new science labs include hooded chemical stations, windows, counters and a lab with a sealed floor and drains, where glass tanks were already filling up with reptiles, a hedgehog, two bearded dragons, and other empty tanks stood ready for poison dart frogs and aquatic life including crabs and a 100-year-old box turtle.

Biology and permaculture teacher Cathy Wilkins was still at work on the lab Monday with a student teacher. She also plans to build planters on the roof outside the lab windows, originally intended to be a “green roof” covered with plant life before a change of plans in the budget.

“Unbelievable. Last year we didn’t even really have running water. This is amazing,” Wilkins said of the new teaching space, before embarking on a tour of the numerous organisms on display in the room.

Many, like the hedgehog, were abandoned and she sees an additional lesson that wild animals aren’t pets. Wilkins and her husband began building the educational menagerie in the old school, but she never had a purpose-built space. Benefits include a floor that directs spilled water to central drains, instead of the hallway.

In the science hall, parents Rosemarie Freeland and Phillip Smith, with ninth grader Zahri Smith, were pleased with what they had seen of the school.

“As a GHS alumna I’m very impressed, and grateful. Go Greenfield! Because the citizens of Greenfield agreed to override Proposition 21/2 , we have this building,” said Freeland of the GHS class of 1983.

Freeland wasn’t the only alumna impressed with the changes.

“I went here, so it’s fabulous,” said Nickie Rice, after son Cameron Rice called the building “pretty nice.” Nickie Rice said she won’t miss the leaking roof. Cameron Rice, new to the school as an eighth grader, was looking forward to math class.

Kerri and Jeremy Damon, who also attended the school, were pleased to find the new building on their return from Louisiana. “It’s a whole different building,” Jeremy Damon said. Their son is going into eighth grade.

“Believe me, coming from Louisiana schools, where he’s gone for the last 10 years, this is going to be like ‘wow!’” Kerri Damon said, adding she was a little worried to find the eighth grade had been added to high school, but she figured her son would be fine as the youngest of five siblings.

The Damons were not alone in thinking the new building was bigger than the old, an impression the red brick interior and brightly-lit halls give despite a smaller overall area. The cafeteria, auditorium, audio-visual lab, gymnasium, locker rooms, training room, weight room and science labs are among the newest elements of the school, turned over to the town days before the start of school.

Clerk of the Works Jeffrey Dome of Construction Monitoring Services, the firm hired to oversee the GHS reconstruction project, said the town building department issued a certificate of occupancy for the building Monday.

“It now is the town’s property except the Phase 4 area, which is ongoing,” Dome said. Phase 4 includes the track, some parking and paving, all of which Dome said will be done before Thanksgiving. In the meantime, he said students can expect to see finishing touches being applied to the building. Architects will walk through and create a list of minor blemishes to be rectified in that time.

You can reach Chris Curtis at: ccurtis@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 257