By Douglas Moser
---- — METHUEN — The initial reviews of the new Methuen High School were generally positive yesterday.
After their first day in the renovated and expanded south wing of the high school, students said they were impressed with the result of the renovation project.
“Walls!” three seniors, Yalivi Castro, Idalis Guzman and Gisette Dela Cruz, said all at once when asked what change they liked the most.
Jenn Clougherty, a senior, said she liked the windows. Before the project, the high school had few windows and little natural light inside. The renovation widened existing windows and added many more, along with two building-length skylights in the main hallways.
The original building interior was designed as a wide open space, where classes and halls were formed by moving lockers or temporary dividers. The renovated section has traditional rooms for classes.
“I like that the classrooms are enclosed so you can hear what you’re supposed to, and not all the classes around you,” said senior Kerry Molloy.
Sophomore Nick Elgers said the walls, light and food were better.
Several students took to Twitter to post pictures and say the building is unrecognizable. A couple tweets were negative, but offered no explanation of what the problem was.
Superintendent Judith Scannell said she thought the students were excited about the new building. “Finding their way around the building went well, staff stationed in all areas of the building helping out. I’m delighted with the opening day,” she said. “K-8 buildings, as well as the grade 9 academy, had smooth openings. We had a few late buses, and missed bus stops. Buses were sent back to pick up students at the missed stops.”
Crews from contractor Consigli Construction pushed over the summer to make sure the south wing was finished in time for the start of school. Workers put finishing touches on as late as Tuesday, painting the last walls and attaching stone to the staircase in the main entrance. The new auditorium will be completed in November.
On Thursday morning, a pipe fitting burst in the ceiling along the new hallway linking the ice rink, field house and main school building, officials said. Members of the Building Committee, the body made up of city residents and city and school officials overseeing the $98 million renovation project, said the contractor worked all weekend and on Labor Day to fix the connection, test the area for contamination and to replace the walls and ceiling tiles.
“Bruce (Stella) cleaned it up and Consigli worked all weekend to cut the sheet rock and put it in,” said City Councilor Ron Marsan, who also sits on the Building Committee. “They were on it within hours.”
Stella is the School Department facilities manager.
“It’s amazing the work they did to get it done on time,” School Committee and Building Committee member Robert Vogler said.
The work will not be charged to the city.
Building Committee officials received updates all weekend on the break and repairs.
Work demolishing the interior of the north wing began over the summer and will continue into next year, with the entire project scheduled to be done this time next year.
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