Bolton enters a new era of education

By Martha Marteney - Staff Writer
Bolton - posted Tue., Nov. 22, 2011
State Rep. Pam Sawyer presents the state proclamation on the official ribbon-cutting of the Bolton High School to School Superintendent Paul K. Smith and Board of Education Chair Karen Bergin. Photos by Martha Marteney.
State Rep. Pam Sawyer presents the state proclamation on the official ribbon-cutting of the Bolton High School to School Superintendent Paul K. Smith and Board of Education Chair Karen Bergin. Photos by Martha Marteney.

After several years of contemplation and more than a year of construction, the Bolton High School renovation project has been officially completed. The ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on Saturday, Nov. 20, with tours of the facility and a community reception.

“Good things come to those who wait,” said Bolton Center School Principal Mary Grande.

The tone of the ceremony was one of community, shared experience, friendship, mutual appreciation and respect. The speakers all expressed their personal connection with the project, whether as a student, teacher, staff member, consultant or committee volunteer. BHS Principal Joe Maselli said the motto during the past year of construction was “Be flexible and keep smiling.” This year’s motto is “Be grateful,” he said. “I’m grateful for an earth-friendly building chock full of technology.”

While the hard work of completing the renovation was appreciated, the overwhelming sentiment was that it is not the new facility that will make the school better, it is the members of the community that are important. “The critical elements are human,” said Board of Education Chair Karen Bergin.

“We decided to build this learning environment, a home for our students,” said Scott Bosco, chair of the building committee, referring to the overwhelming approval of the referendum to support the high school.

“It’s amazing what a community can do,” said Town Manager Joyce Stille. She also noted that some 60 students participated in the post-winter storm clean-up day, including students from Columbia.

After recalling his time in Bolton’s last one-room schoolhouse, First Selectman Bob Morra called the high school “the Bolton showcase.” Later, John Toomey, president of the Bolton Historical Society and member of the Alumni Association, said the one-room school houses were considered model schools in Connecticut. Bolton has supported public schools for 280 years, and was recently rated by U.S. News and Report as a top high school.

State Rep. Pam Sawyer (R-55) presented Bergin and Superintendent of Schools Paul K. Smith with a proclamation from the state legislature. She also presented a state flag to be hung at the school.

Smith said the new high school symbolized a new era of education. After the community of Bolton came together to build the school, he said, “Now this school will build the community of Bolton.”

“I think it’s a special day because the town gets to see everything,” said BHS senior Jenna Luck, who gave tours throughout the day and spoke during the ceremony. “There are so many things we never had,” said Luck, referring for example to the SmartBoards in every classroom. “Now we have technology to back us up. And we’ll know the equipment when we get to college.”

“It makes me proud,” said Student Council President Nevin Ounpuu-Adams about the new school. Ounpuu-Adams was involved with the renovation project as part of an independent study he undertook with the consulting architect. “It was a great experience,” he said. He is especially proud of the many earth-friendly features, including the geo-thermal system, the passive-solar skylights, dual flush toilets and the hydration station. Although he said he was always proud of his school, previously it was not the school itself he was proud of. Now, he said, “This building is truly something to be proud of.”

The students chose to highlight certain aspects of the school. For many, the student commons is a great new feature. The multi-purpose area can accommodate the entire student population and serves as both the cafeteria and the auditorium. Through the use of SmartBoards and microphones, the student commons and the music room can also be linked for performances. The physics lab now has separate instructional space and lab work areas, and the specimens on the microscopes can be viewed by all students via the SmartBoards. The new music computer lab is one example of the renovated facility enabling the school to develop new curriculum and courses.

The students were also proud that all the food prepared during the recent early winter storm was made in the BHS food lab, where there is instructional space, as well as two identical full-service kitchens.

Even a simple change such as a flat space above the lockers does not go unappreciated. Students can now put their sports bags on top of the lockers, rather than leaving them on the floor or trying to fit everything inside the lockers.

The students also saw the benefits from the teachers’ perspectives, such as being able to easily arrange for computer lab time. Many of the classrooms have been greatly expanded, such as the art room, which now has separate areas for dry and wet techniques. “Our art rooms were so small,” said Luck. “Art is one of the most popular electives.”

The final step of the transformation at Bolton High School is the relocation of the Board of Education from the Bolton Center School to the old library area at the BHS. This will be done at the end of November. The space at the BCS will be renovated for preschool.

“We’re excited to cut the ribbon,” said Smith, at the beginning of the ceremony. “It’s been a long process.” He said he was glad the students, staff and community had the one day to celebrate, “and then it’s back to school on Monday.”

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