The Regional School Unit 1 school board and building committee cut a ribbon in front of the building’s main entrance on Wednesday, Sept. 22. Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record

Over 100 attendees celebrated the completion of the new Morse High School building in Bath Wednesday as members of the Regional School Unit 1 school board and building committee cut a ribbon in front of the building’s main entrance.

After the school district got approval from the state in 2015 to construct a new building, RSU 1 Superintendent Patrick Manuel said district leaders got to work brainstorming what they’d like the new $75.3 million school to provide students. Among the priorities was a “state-of-the-art” school with improved extracurricular facilities that “integrates Morse High School and the Bath Tech high school” while preserving the school’s history, traditions and pride,” he said. Several school leaders argued the new building fits the bill.

The former high school at 826 High St. in Bath is nearly a century old and holds memories from generations of Morse High School students. Morse High School Principal Eric Varney said the final days in the old school last year were filled with nostalgia and pictures, but the love students and staff have for the new building far outweighs any homesickness for the former building.

“My favorite overheard conversation after opening this school was a student telling her friend that ‘Going to school in a place like this makes me want to try harder,'” said Varney. “I think our students understand that we’ve made a significant investment in their success. This facility legitimizes the important work our students and teachers do on a daily basis.”

Brian Hatch, Morse alumnus and chairman of the Alumni Scholarship Fund, said the move from the old school to the new building is proof that the spirit of Morse High School lives in the alumni and student body instead of the building itself.

“It’s not the brick and mortar that makes this school Morse High and Bath Tech,” said Hatch. “It’s the thousands of students, teachers, community members and alumni … who are the heart and soul of Morse High School. It’s the faculty, staff and hundreds of students of today who work and attend classes at this Morse High and Bath Tech that continue to keep that heart beating and the soul alive.”

The Morse High School set the tone for the event by playing the school’s song, “Blue and White.” Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record

Students moved into the new school building last February, but the district delayed its ribbon-cutting ceremony due to the COVID-19, according to Varney.

RSU 1 has seen only one case of COVID-19 so far this year, according to Manuel. The district reported “a member of the Bath Regional Career and Technical Center community” tested positive for COVID-19 on Sept. 15

Bath Regional Career and Technical Center is a vocational education center open to all students attending Boothbay Region High School, Lincoln Academy, Morse High School, and Wiscasset High School. The vocational school shares a building with Morse High School in Bath, RSU 1’s only high school. RSU 1 serves Bath, Arrowsic, Phippsburg and Woolwich.

According to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, just over 73% of Bath Regional Career and Technical Center staff are vaccinated while nearly 86% of Morse High School staff are vaccinated.

Manuel said about 55-62% of the district’s students eligible to be vaccinated have received either one or both shots.

RSU 1 is faring far better than other neighboring school districts at keeping COVID-19 as low as possible.

RSU 5, which serves Freeport, Durham and Pownal, has reported 23 cases of COVID-19 so far this academic year. Of those, 10 are active, meaning the person who tested positive is not at school, according to Superintendent Becky Foley.

Meanwhile, neighboring Brunswick School District has reported at least 13 cases of COVID-19 this month, the majority of which have come from Brunswick High School, according to the district’s website.

On Thursday, Brunswick Assistant Superintendent Shawn Lambert announced Brunswick High School had 11 active COVID-19 cases. This caused the Maine CDC to determine there is an outbreak of COVID-19 at the school, according to a statement on the school district’s website. That determination, however, does not change the school’s education program, according to Lambert’s statement.

Just over 94% of Brunswick High School staff are vaccinated against COVID-19 and between 90-94% of eligible Brunswick students have received at least one shot, according to state data.

In Maine School Administrative District 75, encompassing Harpswell, Bowdoin, Bowdoinham and Topsham, at least five students or staff have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the district’s website.

Most recently, an employee at Mt. Ararat Middle School tested positive on Sept. 19, according to a statement from Interim Superintendent Robert Lucy.

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