Rindge and Latin opens with refreshed feeling
Students enthralled by $112m renovation
When high school junior Grant Baker returned to Cambridge Rindge and Latin School for the first day of classes earlier this month, the teen said he saw something he had never seen before.
More than a half hour before classes were scheduled to begin, Baker said, hundreds of sophomores and upperclassmen were lined up outside the school doors waiting to get in.
“I’d never seen kids really excited trying to get into school,’’ said Baker, 16. “Everyone just wanted to see what happened - how did it look?’’
When the doors opened, students got their first peek at the school’s nearly finished $112 million renovation. The project began in 2009 and forced classes, such as Baker’s, to relocate to an old elementary school nearby for their freshmen year.
Saturday at 10 a.m., the city will hold a ribbon-cutting dedication celebrating the renovations at the 78-year-old high school, which city officials said completes almost a quarter-billion dollars’ worth of capital projects that have transformed the school and surrounding buildings into a campus feel.
Next door, the city completed a $90 million new building and renovation for the Cambridge Public Library in the fall of 2009, and earlier that year held a dedication for the $28 million renovation of the War Memorial Recreation Center, attached to the high school.
The school project was effectively a gut-renovation of the building intended to modernize the facility while students continued taking classes, said Jim Maloney, the chief operating officer of Cambridge public schools.
Consigli Construction of Milford and J.J. Construction of Grafton often had to stop and start work based on students’ midterms, finals, or MCAS test schedules, Maloney said.
The footprint of the building has remained the same, but the exterior has been touched up and the interior has been redone from top to bottom.
Dana Ham, director of facilities for the school district, said once-blocked skylights have been uncovered and combined with new lighting and paint to brighten classrooms and hallways.
The new rubber flooring installed throughout the school is made of long-lasting material and is part of a green building design by HMFH Architects of Cambridge.
Each classroom can now control its heating and lighting, Maloney said. The number of science labs has increased from 16 to 18, and each lab now has space for students to sit for lectures. Library space has been renovated, new student lockers were installed, and changes to the cafeteria have made it more attractive to students.
“We’ve run out of food a couple of days because we’re having far more kids buy food here than they used to,’’ Maloney said.
Bersabell Yeshitla, a senior, said before the renovation she never ate school food, but with more choices and a nicer cafeteria, she is there every day.
Yeshitla, 17, who is student body president, said as a freshman at Rindge & Latin, she was in an art class with a ceiling that leaked, a building that was dark, and other classes that were too hot or too cold.
But Yeshitla said following the renovations the school feels much more welcoming than before. She noticed how students are now making an effort to keep it that way.
“It was very dirty before, so they were like ‘why bother cleaning it up,’ ’’ Yeshitla said.
Damon Smith , interim principal, said the renovation has changed the mood of folks at the school and helped classes get off to a good start this year.
“I think the building has really enlivened people,’’ Smith said.
Maloney said more than 99 percent of the interior work at the school has been completed, but landscaping will not be finished for a couple of weeks and the finishing touches by Christmas.
Richard Rossi , Cambridge’s deputy city manager, said the project is expected to come in within budget, and the city is now turning its attention to renovations as part of the school district’s “Innovation Agenda’’ that will consolidate most sixth through eighth grade students into four buildings.
Rossi said that work is expected to take 8 to 10 years and will begin with the Martin Luther King Jr. School .
But first the public and city officials are invited to celebrate the renovations at the high school and tour the building Saturday at 10 a.m.
“Free at last after so many years of construction,’’ said Bobby Tynes , the assistant principal at the school .
Brock Parker can be reached at Brock.firstname.lastname@example.org.