Public tours new-and-improved Lewiston Middle School

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LEWISTON Like dozens of others on Wednesday night, Dwight Webb came to the open house at the renovated Lewiston Middle School.

Webb proudly wore his high school jacket, which sported his name and the year he graduated 1967. The school was formerly the high school.

“It’s been in the closet for a long time,” Webb said with a laugh.

As he stood in a hall with its fresh paint and sharp blue-and-white stripes, he said he was impressed with how the building looked.

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“Very good,” he said. “I’m glad they renovated it.”

In agreement were friends Jeanne Beaulieu, who graduated from Lewiston High in 1966, and Bob LaFrance, who graduated from the school in 1965.

As Diane and Charles Bleakney walked into the lobby, the former middle school teachers smiled. Both retired from teaching after 40 years.

Diane Bleakney also attended Lewiston High, graduating in 1966.

“I was so afraid they were going to tear it down or make it not a school,” Bleakney said. “It’s part of Lewiston’s history,” she said, admiring the 1931 dedication plaque displayed in the lobby along with the new dedication of the renovated school.

“So many of us came through these corridors,” Bleakney said. “We have such great memories of the high school and the middle school. It’s part of Lewiston. I think it’s a beautiful building. They kept the integrity.”

Before students led visitors on tours, Superintendent Bill Webster spoke in the auditorium, thanking the architects, Hebert Construction, students and teachers who lived through the renovation.

Initially, Lewiston hoped to build a new middle school, but wasn’t successful in obtaining state funding. A decision was made to renovate with local dollars, which was approved by voters in July 2012.

The original request asked for a building with a main entrance “that is inviting to visit, provides first-floor access to administrative offices and allows public access to the auditorium with the school secure.”

The must-have list asked for pleasing hallways and cafeteria, class space that contributes to the learning environment and adequate space for educational programs.

“We’ve succeeded,” Webster said. “I thank you all.”

As visitors entered Pamlyah Brown’s classroom, Bleakney was enthused.

“This is nice!” Bleakney said. “It’s clean and bright an inviting learning space. Do all classrooms have one of those?” she said pointing to a SMART board.

Most do, Brown said. “I put quizzes up there. Students use their iPads and answer.”

The retired teacher noticed the dropped ceiling and talked about the new ventilation system.

When she taught, the old system “would clang,” Bleakney said. “It was hard for students to focus. This is great.”

Brown said this is her 27th year teaching. She’s happy in her new room.

“I just love it,” Brown said. She showed how she can push buttons “and this bank of lights comes on.” Another control adjusts light in the room to how much natural light comes from windows. There’s a sensor for that, Brown said.

In addition to the classrooms, visitors saw many other new rooms: bathrooms, the second-floor library, third-floor science labs and art and music rooms.

Halls and classrooms had fresh coats of paint and dropped ceilings that cut down on noise. The lockers were also new.

Sheron Lessard, who graduated from Lewiston High School in 1965, said she was among those who voted for the improvements.

“It’s excellent,” Lessard said.

She approved of how the old was combined with the new.

“They did a really good job,” she said. “This building has a lot of character.”

bwashuk@sunjournal.com

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