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Wellesley's new $115 million high school opens

Posted by Leslie Anderson  February 28, 2012 11:20 AM

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Kayana Szymczak for The Boston Globe


An outside view of the front entrance of the new Wellesley High School.

Wellesley students walked into their sparkling new $115 million high school for the first time today, as three graduates from more than 70 years ago turned out the lights in the old building's dusty gym.

Teachers and alumni lined the pathway from the 1938 building to a new facility that was finished six months ahead of schedule and under budget. The first to enter were four students — one from each class, picked by lottery — followed by the entire senior class and then the rest of the school.

‘‘The school is terrific. It’s beautiful,’’ said Bruno Burgatti, an alumnus who graduated in 1940. Asked to recall his first day at the old high school, he said, ‘‘It’s all a blur now. I’m remembering this one.’’

The morning was filled with speeches and songs, including ‘‘America the Beautiful,’’ the lyrics of which were penned by Wellesley resident Katharine Lee Bates.

However, the day was also tinged with sorrow, as students and faculty honored Wellesley freshman Hannah Randolph, 15, who was killed Feb. 19 in a skiing accident in Colorado. About 200 students from all five of the school’s singing groups — including the Concert Choir, of which Hannah was a member — sang ‘‘For Good’’ from ‘‘Wicked.’’ It was the last song she sang with the choir before February vacation began.

‘‘The loss of such a bright light in a world so full of darkness seems the cruelest of blows,’’ said Andrew Keough, the school’s principal. ‘‘She was a quiet, humble person who shaped hundreds of lives. ... Hannah mattered and she will be missed.’’

After the ceremonies, students explored their new school, finding their lockers and visiting classrooms, which teachers had set up the previous day.

‘‘I love it. It’s even better than I thought,’’ said Tyshiana Blount, a junior. ‘‘But I’m just scared I’m going to get lost.’’

The new school was built on the parking lot of the old school, and the old building is slated for demolition over the next several months so it can be turned into parking for the new facility.

Tours of the new school for the public will start next month, with neighbors who have lived through the construction project being the first invited in, followed by Town Meeting members.

Tours will continue at the end of April and in May, when the community celebrations and formal dedications take place.

The official community dedication of the new school is scheduled for May 19. It will be preceded by weeks of special events, including a dedication of the ‘‘1938 room’’ from the old school, a rededication of the Wilbury A. Crockett Library, and a ‘‘GoSmart’’ program sponsored by the Green Schools Committee and the Wellesley Trails Committee to encourage students to walk, bike, or take a bus to school to reduce carbon emissions.

The dedication will be followed by a weekend of activities including a movie night and the 44th annual Wellesley Veterans’ Parade, capped by a concert and fireworks at Hunnewell Field.

Evan Allen can be reached at evan.allen@globe.com.

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