LEWISTON — When art and music students head to class on Tuesday, it won’t be the basement they’ll head to, but the new two-story addition to Lewiston High School.
After 18 months of construction, the school’s first arts and music wing is open, and students and staff are thrilled. Unlike the makeshift basement rooms they’ve used for decades, the new classrooms were purpose-built to meet the unique needs of the visual and performing arts department.
Chorus and piano teacher Erin Morrison said her old classroom was “a hallway, it was next to the loading dock, next to the dumpsters.”
“It’s so surreal,” she said. “I have windows. I’ve never had windows in my entire teaching career, I’m so excited! »
The new choir hall is large, with a raised ceiling and acoustic panels on the walls and floors. Morrison said these features will significantly improve sound quality over his previous piece.
“It’s beautiful, and I’m so flabbergasted in the best way,” she said. “I was doing with what I had, but having a space that was literally designed for what I do is just mind-blowing in the best way. I’m just ecstatic.
Laura Manchester, a painting and drawing teacher, explained that having three large sinks, rather than a small sink in the corner, will speed up cleanup and give students more time to work. Photography teacher Sarah Stocker shared that each of her students will have a computer to edit photos in her new class, when before they had to share.
And Tim Baxter-Ferguson, the new drama teacher, said the removable wall between his classroom and the one next door means the after-school drama program will no longer need to travel to college to get away. train.
For art and music programs, the move from the basement to the new addition is figurative as well as physical. Many teachers said the basement rooms – sometimes called the “dungeon” – were scattered and easily overlooked by students and staff.
“I think the unintended message was that the arts were hidden away, not that important, they’re in makeshift spaces,” said Jody Dube, content manager for the visual and performing arts department. “I think a lot of times our arts students didn’t feel like their passion was valued in the same way that other things can be.”
Conversations about building a dedicated wing for the visual and performing arts department began 20 years ago, but other more pressing projects were prioritized, Dube said. it wasn’t until several years ago under former superintendent Bill Webster that those conversations turned into action.
The $13.4 million project was approved in November 2019. Early plans only called for a one-story addition for arts and music programs, but the district saw an opportunity to address d other high school needs.
By adding two floors, the school was able to give teachers who previously moved from room to room each period a classroom of their own. The life skills program, which caters to students with special needs, has been moved from the basement to a room in the adjoining B wing, near the new elevator and renovated administrative offices.
The addition also added two new high school programs, Dufour said: drama and computer science.
“It was something that was really able to scale because we had a project that kind of ticked several boxes that the school needed, versus one,” vice principal Jay Dufour said.
Teachers from the Visual and Performing Arts department are especially excited to have a space to show student work and be close to each other for the first time.
“It’s wonderful to have all of my colleagues on this floor together,” Stocker said. “We’ve been scattered all over the building…we’re going to be a real community, and we can’t wait to be there.”
The secondary school is planning an open house for parents and community members to visit the new addition on March 24.
“I think (the new construction) will provide students, staff and community members with a really warm and welcoming place, where student creativity is not just expected but celebrated,” Dube said. “(The new space) creates a scenario where we really value the creative process and the arts in high school here.”
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