Ceremony marks completion of $71 million expansion project
By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times
EAST MARLBOROUGH — As one chapter ended — three years of construction and some angst in the community — current and former administrators and board of education members from the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District gathered Tuesday night to usher in the newest chapter of Unionville High School: the completion of a $71 million renovation that updated the 54-year-old structure to all but new.
Local elected officials, including East Marlborough Supervisor Robert Weer, Newlin supervisor chair Janie Baird, mingled with current and former Board of Education members, including Kathleen Brown, Timotha Trigg, Karen Haldsted and Corrine Sweeney — to formally dedicate the the massively revised building, now complete after some three years of construction.
Tuesday night ended the formal end of construction of the school’s renovation, a project that added new classrooms, a new gym, a new auditorium and reworks of much of the building, the first major work done at the school since a 1991 renovation and expansion of the building, which first opened in 1959.
Although the mood was festive, there was a sense expressed by many that the end of the construction project might put years of divided opinion about the worth and scope of the project behind the district and the community at large.
“This was not a unanimous project when it started,” said board member Frank Murphy, who has chaired the Facilities Committee for the board since 2009 and oversaw the project for the board. “But what started in disagreement, ended up in agreement on a great building.”
Superintendent of Schools Dr. John Sanville admitted he was a little hesitant to hold Tuesday’s night ceremony because of the strong feelings — negative and positive — that the community expressed over the project, but suggested that the building was a “triumph of good intentions” and noted how impressed he was that so many had turned out on “a raw February night” to celebrate the completion of the project.
Students led tours of the renovated facilities, and spoke of the old building, with leaky roofs, cramped space in the cafeteria and the dreaded modular classrooms, which required going outside in the rain and cold.
The students, all of whom had to endure the many disruptions caused by the construction, too, marveled at the outcome.
“Our reputation for academic excellence did not match our facilities,” senior class president Bianca Gizzi said. “Now, the quality of our physical structure equals our education.”
Former Superintendent Sharon Parker, under whom the project started, admitted it proved to be more challenging than anyone thought, and ultimately more educational for all involved.
“I think we all learned the value of mathematics, economics and measurement,” Parker joked, the last a reference to the 2011 dispute with East Marlborough over the height of the auditorium. Parker thanked parents, students and the community at large for their sacrifices in making the project so successful.
Unionville High School principal Paula Massanari — who has seen virtually her entire time at the school dominated by the construction project after coming to the school in Jan. 2009 — noted that beyond the vast improvement in the quality of the facility, the renovation makes the building safer and more secure for students.
“When we had the 18 modular classrooms, it required us to keep the perimeter doors unlocked,” she said. Now, she noted, only the main entrance to the building at the main office is open, making the building far more secure.
Plaques were presented to Jim McLimans, the district’s project manager, who oversaw the day-to-day on-site management of the project and Rick Hostetler, the district’s Supervisor of Buildings and Grounds, who oversaw the entire project for the district. The project was completed early and under the original budget of $71 million, district officials said.