February 26, 2010

Building impresses Westbrook students on opening dayTaking a shine to new school


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Photo by John Ewing/Staff Photographer... Wednesday, January 20, 2010...The new Westbrook Middle School officially opened on Wednesday morning. School superintendant Reza Namin stands in the school's Performing Arts Center which can seat up to 1,000 in the audience.

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Photo by John Ewing/Staff Photographer... Wednesday, January 20, 2010.. Westbrook Middle School students arrived at their new school building for the first time on Wednesday morning.

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Staff Writer

WESTBROOK — Students who entered the gymnasium Wednesday at Westbrook Middle School were excited and eager to walk around their new school.

''Today is all set for you,'' Principal Brian Mazjanis told the 600 or so students seated in the bleachers. ''You won't get lost, but if you do, we are here to help you. This is your time to create a future of learning and respect.''

After construction delays, missed deadlines and a long wait for students, the middle school opened Wednesday morning.

Students walked in to find a two-story atrium with exposed wood beams and a long staircase that leads to the performing arts center and other common spaces. The light wood, porcelain tile floors and earth-tone colors gave the school a warm and welcoming feeling. Mazjanis said one of his favorite features is the natural light.

''I love the feel of this school,'' he said. ''Everywhere you go in the building, there is natural light. Today, I knew what the weather was. In the other building, I never saw outside.''

Superintendent Reza Namin greeted students as they arrived. ''It was very exciting to see the expression of excitement on their faces,'' he said.

Mazjanis said he overheard one student in the hallway say it almost made him cry to walk into the school.

''The cool thing was talking to the kids and hearing their reactions,'' Mazjanis said. ''Today might be one of the best days of my career.''

Keigan Sears, 11, a sixth-grader, is glad that his locker is bigger than the one he had at the 37-year-old Wescott Junior High School.

''It's awesome,'' Keigan said. ''The school is so big. It's a lot nicer than the old one.''

His classmate Dylan Turner, 12, liked the pattern of the floor tiles and the motivational quotes scattered throughout the hallways and classrooms.

One says, ''Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes.'' Another says, ''Art is knowing which ones to keep.'' Students helped pick out the quotes.

''The school is awesome,'' Dylan said. ''I like how the rooms are more high-tech and the lockers are wider.''

Haleigh Barrett, 12, was in a portable classroom at Wescott. ''I'm happy I'm in an actual building now,'' Haleigh said. ''I can't wait to see all the rooms.''

The $34 million school has a 1,000-seat state-of-the-art performance center and a geothermal system for heating and cooling. It has technology upgrades, new designs and ''green'' practices. The rooms have sensors designed to dim the lights as natural light enters the building. It also has motion sensors that will turn lights off when a room is unoccupied.

''I keep wanting to flip the switch in the bathroom,'' Mazjanis said. ''It clicks on.''

Every classroom has an interactive smart board, a projector screen and a sound field system, which allows the teacher's voice to carry to the back of the classroom.

The school's opening came with some last-minute glitches. The cafeteria didn't have gas Wednesday morning, or a can opener. And the staff hadn't practiced cooking a meal there.

''We're going simple at first and easing into it,'' said Jeanne Reilly, director of school nutrition, noting that students ate pizza and Italian sandwiches for lunch. ''This is a lot better than the kitchens we came from.''

At Wescott, there were two kitchens and two cafeteria staffs, so students in the same grade might not have been able to eat with each other.

''(Now) we get to eat with the whole eighth grade,'' said Brianna Gross, 13. ''I think it's pretty cool.''

Just before a morning fire drill, Mazjanis noticed that the outside back stairs used as the evacuation route were not shoveled. He grabbed a shovel and cleared the new snow.

The teachers also lacked copy machines, and administrators were figuring out the phone system. Technicians walked around the building, fixing glitches in the electrical system.

The school's opening was initially scheduled for Dec. 15 -- a date that was never publicized -- then was bumped to Jan. 4 because of construction delays.

Workers cleared out Wescott Junior High during the school vacation, but the new school failed to pass a city inspection. Students resumed classes at Wescott on Jan. 4.

Namin, the superintendent, credited project managers from Harriman Associates and Harvey Construction for their dedication to the project. He said the building's steering committee, along with dozens of volunteers, contributed to the project's success.

''They delivered something that is a gem to this community,'' he said.

Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:


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Additional Photos

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Photo by John Ewing/Staff Photographer... Wednesday, January 20, 2010...Westbrook Middle School students head off to their new classrooms following an assembly in the new school's gymnasium on the first day of classes in the new building.

click image to enlarge

Photo by John Ewing/Staff Photographer... Wednesday, January 20, 2010...Westbrook Middle School students find their new lockers in the hallways as they begin their first day of school in the new building.

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Photo by John Ewing/Staff Photographer... Wednesday, January 20, 2010...Keigan Sears, a sixth grade student at Westbrook Middle School talks about his first day in the new school building on Wednesday morning.

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