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Students and teachers impressed by renovated JBHS on first day of school

September 06, 2011|By ROXANN MILLER | roxann.miller@herald-mail.com
  • Students fill the newly remodeled hallways of James Buchanan High School on Tuesday morning - their first day of school.
By Yvette May, Staff Photographer

MERCERSBURG, Pa. — When 18-year-old senior Trevor Forsythe walked into the newly renovated James Buchanan High School on his first day of school Tuesday his reaction was very different from his first day as a freshman.

"Wow, I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I thought I walked into the wrong school at first," Trevor said. "I never pictured it looking this good."

Three years earlier, his reaction was anything but positive.

"I thought, 'Man, four years of this!'" said Trevor, remembering his thoughts as an incoming freshman in 2008.

That year, Trevor and his fellow students found a deteriorating school with broken auditorium seats, brown drinking water and failing heating and air-conditioning systems.

On Tuesday, Trevor and approximately 800 other students in the ninth through 12 grades were blown away by the extreme makeover to James Buchanan High School.

"I like it. I know what it took to get a nicer school," Trevor said, referring to the failed $35 million referendum and months of discussion to agree on a new renovation plan.

Planning on the high school began in 2007, with the $17 million renovation project taking 18 months to complete. The project architects were Crabtree, Rohrbaugh & Associates Architects of Mechanicsburg, Pa.

"When you first came into the main part of the hallway (by the auditorium) it was always dark before it was renovated," Trevor said. "Now, this hallway is a lot brighter. It makes it a more positive place to be."

It wasn't just the students who were wowed by the school's new look.

"I think it looks brand new," language arts teacher Troy Hillwig said. "It's something that staff and students can take pride in, and it's been a long time coming."

He hopes the new and improved school will positively impact the academic process.

"I certainly hope that it does in terms of an overall attitude not only with the students, but with the staff, and that should develop more of a rapport between teachers and students. I think the learning environment is going to be better," Hillwig said.

Senior Tori Nolan, 17, can't believe that she is finishing her senior year at a "new" JBHS.

"Last year, the construction didn't seem to be moving very fast. Now, it's almost done, which really surprised us. I thought I'd graduate from the 'old' JB," Tori said.

It's hard for her to pinpoint a favorite part of the renovation.

"I like the auditorium best, I think. Before the clocks didn't work, and the seats were broken. Now, we have cushioned seats," she said.

Then, she remembered wearing her coat, hat and gloves in the classroom to stay warm in the winter and wilting in the summer due to a lack of properly functioning air conditioning.

"I like the better climate control. I think all the changes will be good for everyone's morale. It's nice to come to a nice school," she said.

For cooperative education teacher Chris Shelley, the air conditioning is definitely her favorite part of the renovation process.

"The cold didn't bother me, but the heat really did. It was difficult for the kids to even focus. When they are so hot at the beginning of the year in August and September and at the end of the year in May and June it was really hard for them to stay focused. This is just a comfortable learning environment now," Shelley said.

She was thrilled with JB's overall new look.

"I love it. I've been here throughout the process, and to see this come to fruition is just so rewarding," Shelley said. "I know that a lot of people have worked so hard to make this happen, and I appreciate every minute of it."

During lunch, senior Kelsey Potter, 17, said the cafeteria has changed the most.

"It doesn't look like a total wreck anymore," Kelsey said. "The tables used to be torn apart pretty much you could tell they were old."

Now, the cafeteria is equipped with long, bench-style seating.

Floor-to-ceiling windows provide more natural lighting in the cafeteria.

She said the classrooms have also been upgraded. Much is new, including the ceilings, neutral paint, electrical components, heating and air conditioning and windows. More windows also add more natural light.

"They used to have old school stuff — nothing was new — now they have Smartboards," Kelsey said. "I think the new and improved classrooms will help me get better grades. It's a lot different now."

Senior Tyler Zeger, 17, has seen JB at its worst and best.

"I like it a lot," said Tyler. "I like the paint scheme (in the classrooms). It's very nice — very neutral."

Lynn Fleury-Adamek, learning support teacher, is hopeful that the changes will raise the bar on learning.

"It's great compared to the conditions we taught in in the past. We have heat. We have air conditioning. The color scheme is nice — everywhere," said Fleury-Adamek, who has taught at JBHS for six years.

While she doesn't think the conditions at the school were horrible, she appreciates the changes.

"Things needed to be updated. You could tell it was worn," Fleury-Adamek said.

Now that the construction is coming to a close with only a few odds and ends to be completed by the end of this month, high school Principal Rodney Benedick is raising his expectations.

Prominently displayed in a glass display case is this year's high school motto: Aim High — Expect Excellence.

Benedick said every year he gives a new motto to the high school's staff and students.

"My motto to everybody is a lot of the barriers that got in our way of excellence in the past are really gone now. We don't have any excuses to not be a great, great school," Benedick said. "So, that's my target for everybody to expect excellence and achieve great things."

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