Due to the limited parking at the school, all those attending the noon ceremony are asked to park at the Harrison Ice Rink located on the Phillips Academy campus on South Main Street. Shuttles will be available from there to take guests to the construction site, and will return guests to the parking lot following the ceremony, according to the school system.
“We really look at this as a community celebration,” said School Committee member Annie Gilbert, noting the number of people who voted at Town Meeting for the $44 million school, and who offered input at a variety of meetings.
The new building was needed because of structural problems with the existing school. But there are mixed emotions in town about losing the existing school and its whimsical design that reminded children of a castle. It’s open classroom concept led to more noise, but also a different, team teaching approach to education that some people favored.
“There’s no denying [the current school] is a unique building and people have strong emotions about it, one way or the other. It means a lot to a lot of people. I’ve had three children go through the building, so it means a lot to me,” said Gilbert.
But she remembers moving buckets around the media center to catch dripping water when she would volunteer in the school.
“We’re all found of its quirks, but we all acknowledge we need a new structure,” she said. “We’ve worked hard to make another building the community will be equally proud of. We have tried to bring the best of what worked into the new Bancroft as best as we can.”
Recognizing the elementary students’ attachment to their existing school, Forsman indicated that educators also are trying to include students in developments taking place at the construction site. Gilbert said that part of the contract with the architect calls for architects to come into the classrooms and talk about the project.