BY ETHAN FORMAN
---- — DANVERS — The town dedicated its newly renovated $70 million high school Saturday with speeches and tours, with the theme of the day being the school could not have been rebuilt without teamwork.
“It was an approach that helped us overcome a lot of challenges along the way,” said Town Manager Wayne Marquis, who was singled out for his leadership on the project by Kenneth DiNisco, the principal of DiNisco Design Partnership of Boston and the architect on the massive project.
The official opening of the high school had been scheduled for October, but the slaying of high school math teacher Colleen Ritzer, allegedly at the hands of one of her freshmen students several days prior, put the ceremony on hold.
Saturday’s event reflected on the 15 years of work it took to get the school renovated. In attendance in the high school auditorium were many of the town officials, school committee members, school staff, selectmen and residents who had long advocated for or worked on the project. More than 300 people came out for the dedication.
School Committee member Eric Crane called it “the compilation of 15 years of work by numerous members of the community.” He thanked the school administration, the town manager and his staff, DiNisco and “most of all, the people of Danvers.”
“It was a long road to get to the completion of this project,” Crane said.
Marquis singled out members of the Danvers Construction Advisory Committee, whose members met monthly at 7:30 a.m. for 41/2 years to get the project completed. He also named members of his staff, including Department of Public Works Director David Lane, who worked on the project.
Selectmen Chairman Gardner Trask said the efforts over 15 years culminated in a renovated Holten Richmond Middle School on Conant Street in 2005 and the high school project. The town had rejected a middle and high school complex on Cabot Road.
Selectman Bill Clark, who taught at the high school for 29 years and was a member of its first class when the school opened in 1962, traced the history of Danvers High, starting in 1855 when it opened in what is now Town Hall.
From 1927 to 1962, students attended the former Holten High on Conant Street. A former polo field on Cabot Road became the new site of Danvers High in 1962. The town outgrew this school, and after rejecting a new school on Hobart and Stone streets, the town constructed the old Dunn Wing, which later became a middle school.
With its flat roof and electric heating system, “this building was doomed from the beginning,” Clark said. When the town rejected the middle and high school complex more than a decade ago, the town decided to renovate each school one at a time.
Both schools were completed on time and on budget without an override of the tax limits of Proposition 21/2, Clark said.
Superintendent Lisa Dana said the school now provides a “high-quality learning environment,” with its many computer labs for music, credit recovery, art and business technology, among others. Much of the technology in these labs was paid for through a campaign by the Danvers Educational Enrichment Partnership.
“The facility exudes a holistic approach” to education with its modern atrium, library and athletic facilities, said High School Principal and Assistant Superintendent Sue Ambrozavitch.
Massachusetts School Building Authority Executive Director Jack McCarthy congratulated Danvers for being able to do such a project without an override. The authority provided a $35 million reimbursement to make the project possible. McCarthy also thanked the general contractor, Bacon Construction, the project manager, Construction Monitoring Services Inc. and DiNisco for a job well done.
“We hold a higher standard than almost anywhere else in the commonwealth,” noted state Rep. Ted Speliotis, D-Danvers. State Sen. Joan Lovely, D-Salem, was also on hand to congratulate Danvers on a job well done.
At the end of the ceremony, officials unveiled on stage a new bronze plaque for the high school, which will be displayed in the atrium of the school next to the original dedication plaque from 1962.
Some members of the Danvers High Falcon Marching Band gave tours of the building for residents.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.