2016-12-09 / Front Page

Topped off at the high school

Renovation ‘high point’ celebrated
By Wm. Duke Harrington Staff Writer


Kennebunk High School student Christopher Grady (standing) and friends sign the their names to the last steel beam hoisted into place Friday, Dec. 2, as part of a $42.8 million renovation project. (Courtesy photo) Kennebunk High School student Christopher Grady (standing) and friends sign the their names to the last steel beam hoisted into place Friday, Dec. 2, as part of a $42.8 million renovation project. (Courtesy photo) KENNEBUNK — The $42.8 million project to remake Kennebunk High School has reached its high point, marked by a “topping off” ceremony held Friday, Dec. 2.

As students looked on and cheered, two of more than 150 tradesmen at Vermont based PC Construction to work on the new building thus far, hoisted the final and highest steel beam into place, connecting the new wing to the original 1939 structure.

“This is the culmination of years and years of work,” said PC project manager Tim Sommers. “This is a big milestone for us, and I think it’s a big milestone for the town of Kennebunk and the RSU.”

Students signed the beam in indelible ink, forever etching their names into the framework of the building, after which the beam was raised high overhead, with an American flag attached to one end, and a small sapling pine tree to the other.


During a “topping off” ceremony Friday, Dec. 2, Paul Berry of Oxford, left, and Chris Nye of Levant, right, two of more than 150 employees at Vermont-based PC Construction who have worked on the project, hoist the final steel beam into place as part of a $42.8 million renovation of Kennebunk High School. The beam was signed by students, while the tree sapling attached to it is part of an ancient Norse tradition honoring the tree gods. (Duke Harrington photo) During a “topping off” ceremony Friday, Dec. 2, Paul Berry of Oxford, left, and Chris Nye of Levant, right, two of more than 150 employees at Vermont-based PC Construction who have worked on the project, hoist the final steel beam into place as part of a $42.8 million renovation of Kennebunk High School. The beam was signed by students, while the tree sapling attached to it is part of an ancient Norse tradition honoring the tree gods. (Duke Harrington photo) “The tree goes back to Scandinavia,” Sommers told students. “When they used to erect buildings they’d put a tree on top of the tallest beam to thank the tree god. That tradition has been carried through and we do that today on all of our buildings. It’s a celebration of placing the last and highest piece of steel on the construction.”


Tim Sommers, general manager for Vermont based PC Construction of the $42.8 million renovation project at Kennebunk High School, address students Friday, Dec. 2, during a “topping off” ceremony that saw the company hoist into place the final steel beam framing up the new wing. (Duke Harrington photo) Tim Sommers, general manager for Vermont based PC Construction of the $42.8 million renovation project at Kennebunk High School, address students Friday, Dec. 2, during a “topping off” ceremony that saw the company hoist into place the final steel beam framing up the new wing. (Duke Harrington photo) Earlier on Friday, PC, together with officials from RSU 21, held a ribbon cutting at Kennebunkport Consolidated School, marking completion of that project. Work at Mildred L. Day Elementary School in Arundel also is now complete, except for demolition of the old wings. A ribbon cutting is scheduled there for January.

Together, the three renovations, designed by Harriman Architects and Engineers, of Auburn, will dress out at $56,497,038.

After years of wrangling and one denial at the polls to a larger scope of work, voters in June 2015 approved a $56.5 million bond for the work.

“It is so exciting to reach significant milestones in the building projects,” Superintendent Katie Hawes said. “We couldn’t be more pleased to have all three projects on schedule, under budget, and of top quality.”

“The best part of the renovation is seeing a state-of-the-art facility emerging that will support the programs that we have in place,” high school Principal Susan Cressey said. “Robotics and engineering will be able to spread their materials out in a STEM [science, technology, engineering, and math] lab, the band and chorus will be next to the theater, so they won’t have to move their equipment across the driveway for concerts. We’ll have more practice space for wrestling and cheering and volleyball, so teams won’t have to wait in line to use Gym A.

“The science labs, which are 35-plus years old, will be brought into the 21st century in the summer of 2017. Classrooms will be 800 square feet, allowing teachers to use instructional strategies that require collaboration and cooperation. Above all, we’ll have a well-defined main entrance.”

Sommers said the final part of the project will be to create a new first floor under the walkway that now “bridges” the gap between the original high school to a 1981 addition, which cars previously drove underneath to reach the parking lot.

The new classrooms are expected to be done in time for the start of school next fall, with full completion of the project in late 2018. However, the new cafeteria could begin dishing out meals as soon as this January.

“We are trying to turn the cafeteria over early, because right now they are having to truck food in, because we had to take the old cafeteria off line in order to begin construction,” Sommers said.

Additional features to come include a new gymnasium, multipurpose space and lecture hall, as well as new art and design studios and auditorium

“It’s been a great project and we’re happy to be here,” Sommers said.

Staff Writer Duke Harrington can be reached at news@kennebunkpost.com.

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