BY ETHAN FORMAN
---- — DANVERS — Yesterday was the first day of school in town, but for 1,057 high-school students, it was the first day in a newly renovated, mostly complete $71 million Danvers High building.
“The new high school is like a completely different world,” said senior Allie Walsh. “When I saw the new lobby, I didn’t think it would ever look like this.”
Walsh likes the openness of a new soaring lobby that connects the library, the cafeteria and the main entrance and serves as central meeting place for students. It also provides access to a main corridor that runs the length of the building.
Over the past three years, crews from Bacon Construction renovated the entire high school. The project was designed by architects from DiNisco Design Partnership and was overseen by Construction Monitoring Services, the Department of Public Works, and town and school officials.
“Overall, it’s a beautiful building,” Town Manager Wayne Marquis told selectmen Tuesday night.
It’s the largest project the town has ever undertaken. During the two-phase project, crews gutted and renovated the field house and the 1960s academic wing, built a new science wing along Cabot Road, created a new front entrance and facade, and built new central administration offices, among other things.
The project not only created new spaces for students but added some subtle touches, as well.
The seal of the Danvers Falcon now greets students at the front entrance, thanks to a gift from the Class of 1963, the high school’s first graduating class. An electronic sign board flashes messages along Cabot Road, thanks to a gift from the Class of 1985. Curved lights in the ceiling of the new front lobby remind one of clouds. There are “smart” televisions set into wood-paneled walls. The new cafeteria off the front lobby has the feel of a food court.
The town seal is visible on the terrazzo flooring outside the main office.
“It’s worth it to see their faces; it’s really worth it,” said Danvers High Principal and Assistant Superintendent Sue Ambrozavitch of the students’ reactions to the building.
Students said they were thankful the project was done, and done so well.
Senior Ryan Chasse began his high school career in the former Dunn Wing of Danvers High, a 1970s building that acted as swing space while half the high school was renovated. Students had to navigate a hodgepodge of old and new spaces and corridors to go to class. That wing was eventually torn down.
“It’s been a big transition these last three years,” Chasse said. “I think it’s absolutely gorgeous; it’s one of the nicest schools I’ve ever been to. Everything is easily accessible, student wing, teachers wing, classes. Everything is very good; I like it a lot.”
Chasse likes the new cafeteria, entrance and student cafe in the lobby.
“We walk into school, and it’s like a hotel every morning,” he said.
Senior James Nestor also appreciates being in a modern school instead of the old Dunn Wing.
“It feels more like a community than the last one,” Nestor said.
Senior Jonathan Davis appreciates the new cafeteria with open seating, televisions on the wall, high-top tables and charging stations for electronics.
“Beautiful, big, spacious, easy to get around,” said teacher Mike Powers, who as a former selectman helped oversee the construction as a member of the town’s Design/Construction Advisory Committee.
Superintendent Lisa Dana said there are still some punch-list items to finish up, including hydroseeding of a new lawn.
A formal opening ceremony is planned for late October.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at email@example.com or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.