Public tours new North Dorchester High School

Dorchester Banner/Dave Ryan
This view of Town Square shows how the area will serve as a social gathering hub, as well as a lobby and pre-function space for theater and athletic events.

SHILOH — Members of the North Dorchester community had their first chance on Saturday to tour their new high school, and the verdict is in.

“Stunning!” “Impressive!” “Remarkable!”

“These are just some of the comments from the first members of the community to tour their new North Dorchester High School,” a statement from the Central Office said. “Several hundred people stopped by to take a peek and most were delighted by the new building.”

And no wonder. After six years, $43.1 million in construction costs, and a great deal of public input, plenty of effort went into making this a showcase of a public high school.

Community resource
“We’re very careful not to come up with a cookie-cutter response,” said Architect Peter Winebrenner of Hord, Coplan Macht, Inc. the firm that did the design and planning. “This needs to be a community resource.”

At 116,720 feet, there is space for that. The auditorium seats 668, and the new gym has a seating capacity of 700.

When entering the building, students or visitors will find themselves in Town Square. With its high ceilings, comfortable seats and the Learning Stairs leading to the second floor, it is an area that impresses immediately.

“It’s intentionally grand,” Mr. Winebrenner said, while adding, “not irresponsibly grand.”

For instance, the windows not only let in plenty of sunlight – proven to be healthy for mind and body – but also create the illusion of even greater space, linking the indoors to the natural environment and farmland outdoors.

Community Involvement Liaison Valerie Goff helped to show visitors around the school. Knowing how much effort Mr. Winebrenner put into the job, she said, “I’m not exaggerating when I say he poured his heart and soul into this.”

Mind, body and spirit
Heart and soul have a lot to do with it — the structure was designed with the idea of combining mind, body and spirit to create a holistic learning environment. Mind, for instance, includes classrooms and labs; Body, the gym and dining area; and Spirit, the auditorium and music studios.

Daniel Hortert spent 45 years teaching science at North Dorchester, and was on duty in one of the labs on Saturday. “All five of the labs we have here are perfectly equipped,” he said. “The technology is going to be spectacular.”

That potential is exciting stuff for a chemistry teacher who has seen classes in that subject increase from one to five over the years, with many students going on to careers in the field. Eight have gone on to become pharmacists in the last few years. ”Our kids have really stepped up to the plate,” Mr. Hortert said.

They sound like they’re ready to go on Sept. 3, the first day of classes.
On Saturday, Ethan Smith (Class of 2022), Joseph Harding (Class of 2022) and Riley Dadds (Class of 2023) took a look around. “I love it,” Riley said in a post from DCPS. “There’s more of a learning environment – you can feel the positive energy.”

Brando Banda-Perez (Class of 2022) said, “It has a good atmosphere, you feel like you’re really going to learn.”

Stage is set
Just what an architect likes to hear, after using art, technology and muscle for years to create just that feeling. “This project has been the highlight of my career,” Mr. Winebrenner said.

DCPS Facilities’ Engineer Chris Hauge has guided the work from the beginning, and now sees it nearly finished.

“The building is substantially complete,” he said in a statement online. “The punchlist completion is well underway.”

Mr. Hauge made it a point to mention the many people who have worked hard for years on the project, never expecting public recognition. “It is people, us, all of us, Dorchester County, the family, la familia, many if not most who will never be on the front page or local TV. These are the real heroes of getting the house ready to be a home.”

Principal Jacqueline Sorrells is ready for the new era.

“We are Eagle Nation. We soar each and every day,” she said on Saturday. “There is a feeling of light, of hopefulness. The stage is set for success.”

Dave Ryan is editor of the Dorchester Banner. He can be reached at dryan@newszap.com.

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