ALAN BENNETT/Journal TribuneA construction worker assists in placing the final steel beam of a multimillion dollar renovation at Kennebunk High School on Friday. The tree noticeable on the right is an ancient construction tradition marking the placement of a building’s highest structural element, it’s most “auspicious” point.

KENNEBUNK — Students at Kennebunk High School cheered as the final steel beam on the school’s multimillion dollar expansion was lifted into place on Friday.

ALAN BENNETT/Journal TribuneThe final beam of Kennebunk High School’s renovation is placed on Friday, connecting the new facilities to the school’s original 1939 building.

ALAN BENNETT/Journal TribuneThe final beam of Kennebunk High School’s renovation is placed on Friday, connecting the new facilities to the school’s original 1939 building.

The “topping-off” ceremony was the mark of new beginnings at KHS. Signed by students and staff, the chunk of metal served as the final connection between the new facilities under construction and the school’s original 1939 building.

As part of the renovation, the high school will see new 800-square-foot classrooms and the construction of two additional labs for science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, education, plus new art and design studios and an auditorium.

Additional facilities include a new gymnasium, multipurpose space and lecture hall. Harriman Associates of Portland designed the project, and construction on the project is being completed by PC Construction, also of Portland.

PC Construction Project Manager Tim Sommers said he’s been grateful for the community’s support since ground broke in April.

“I think it’s a fantastic project,” he said. “The school was in tough shape and it really needed to have a renovation like this.”

The project is part of a district-wide renovation plan among the schools in Regional School Unit 21, which serves Kennebunk, Kennebunkport and Arundel.

Voters in RSU 21 in 2015 passed a $56.5 million renovation bond for the high school, Kennebunkport Consolidated School and Mildred L. Day School in Arundel to address safety concerns at the three schools and expand classroom sizes to state recommendations.

Sommers said the renovations are expected to be completed in fall 2018. When the new building is completed, the original 1939 school building will also be renovated up to modern standards.

Principal Susan Cressey said the biggest impact of the renovation will be the increased learning space, with the advantage of it all being under one roof. Right now, the school has separate facilities for different programs, and some students have to go outside to get from class to class.

“What this is going to do is make it more compact,” Cressey said. “This is going to give us the facility we need to support our programs. If you find the right program, the student will succeed, and now we’re going to have the facility for those programs.”

Programs include college preparatory classes and Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, apprenticeship and STEM —science, technology, engineering and math —  courses, among many others.

Also on Friday, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held at the Consolidated School to commemorate the completion of its extensive renovations. Those renovations included new fire suppression sprinklers and a security system, updates to classrooms and bathrooms and the addition of new entry doors, according to RSU 21 documents.

It’s been a big couple of months for RSU 21.

In October, the district’s fourth- and fifth-grade school, Sea Road School in Kennebunk, was listed as a National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education. It was one of only three Maine schools this year to receive the designation, heralded as the highest award bestowed upon elementary, middle and high schools across the country.

It’s also the second RSU 21 school to be named as such; the Consolidated School was designated as a blue ribbon school in 2010.

Superintendent Dr. Katie Hawes said Friday the installation of the high school’s final steel beam marked a new era for Kennebunk and the school district as a whole.

“It’s a great day for our schools,” she said. “To have the ribbon cutting at Consolidated School in Kennebunkport this morning and to have that complete, and now the final beam has been put in place, it just really feels like things are coming together with these building projects.”

Hawes said the district, when all building renovations are completed, will be able to move forward and continue providing the quality education for which it has become known.

“We are able to move forward. All of our buildings will be up to 21st Century learning standards and kind of conducive to the learning quality education that we want to provide.”

— Staff Writer Alan Bennett can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 329 or [email protected] 

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