Virginia Kingsbury,101, sat down with Morse High School juniors Isaac Ensel and Isabel Strelneck to speak about her time as a Morse High School student. The students are creating a documentary to capture the transition from the old Morse High School to the new building. Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record

Virginia Kingsbury, Morse High School’s oldest alumna, had one wish when she attended the last Morse High School Alumni Association banquet in 2019: to tour the new high school.

“This might be my last chance to see it, I don’t know, I hope not,” said Kingsbury, who graduated in 1938. “I had heard and read so much about it and it sounded so good and I hoped I could see it. My wish has come true today.”

Kingsbury, 101, fulfilled her wish Saturday when she was given a private tour of the new $75.3 million school, which opened to students in late February.

As she toured the school with her daughter, Sandra Hinds, and Morse Alumni Association President Holly Bisson Lowe on Saturday, Kingsburg remarked on the countless differences between the school she went to and the new school. She pointed out wider hallways and the natural light pouring through the windows in the atrium. Although she was impressed by the new school’s science labs and vocational center spaces, she said the school’s two gymnasiums and the new Montgomery Theater were her favorite parts.

“I think it’s absolutely beautiful,” said Kingsbury. “I wish I was young again so I could attend.”

Although the new building is very different from the former Morse High School at 826 High St., Kingsbury said being in the school brought back memories of her time as a student.

Virginia Kingsbury, class of 1938, toured the new Morse High School Saturday alongside her daughter, Sandra Hinds, and Morse Alumni Association President Holly Bisson Lowe. She said the new building’s two gymnasiums are along her favorite parts of the new school. Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record

“I was a commercial student; I took two years of bookkeeping and two years of shorthand and typing,” said Kingsbury. “Some of that I’ve forgotten over the years, but I remember the teachers.”

Of all her memories, she said her favorite memory remains “being told I earned enough credits to be salutatorian.”

“It’s something you wish you could do over again,” she said. “I would love to be going back to school.”

Although she’ll miss the former school, Kingsbury said the new building better suits the current student body, both because it’s larger and outfitted with newer technology students need and deserve today.

“This is so beautiful and so well-furnished,” said Kingsbury. “You have all new modern equipment. We had a whole room full of typewriters and I doubt you have those now.”

Virginia Kingsbury, the oldest Morse High School alumna, said she’s excited for the current students to have a new school that better suits their needs. Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record

Of all the memorabilia the school’s alumni association brought to the new building, including Kingsbury’s original diploma and a program from her graduation ceremony, she said she’d miss the former school’s gymnasium, fondly called “The Pit.” The gym floor was surrounded by walls with little space on the sidelines and balcony seating that looked over the floor.

The original Morse High School was built in 1904 and named for businessman Charles Morse. It burned down in 1928. The next school was rebuilt on the same site in 1929 — this time to be as fireproof and structurally sound as possible. Additional classrooms and wings were later added during World War II, and again in 1969 and 1996.

With students and teachers moved out of the former school, the city plans to take ownership of the building this summer. The city is in the process of narrowing down what the building should become. Ideas have been thrown around ranging from apartments and commercial spaces to knocking a portion of it down and building a new fire station for the city.

Kingsbury said she believes turning the building into “small apartments” would be her first choice.

During her visit, Kingsburg also sat down with Isaac Ensel and Isabel Strelneck, two of three students in the midst of creating a documentary to capture the transition from the old Morse High School to the new building. Ensel, Strelneck and Thomas Ferolano, all juniors, spend afterschool hours interviewing students, staff and alumni about their experiences with the school for their documentary.

Strelneck told The Times Record in February the documentary will focus on three themes: How Morse High School and the Morse community has changed over time, what sets Morse apart from other schools, and how traditions will be carried forward into the new school.

The team plans to release the documentary this fall. A trailer is available on their YouTube page, KillerFerns Productions.


This story was updated at 3:37 p.m. Monday, May 10, to correct the address of the former Morse High School.

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