DURHAM — Up to 1,000 people gathered Tuesday morning for the ribbon-cutting at the new $22 million Durham Community School on Hallowell Road.

As if on cue, the clouds parted early and visitors were greeted with sunny skies for the long-awaited event, getting their first look inside the state-of-the-art facility.

Ceremonies were opened by RSU 5 Superintendent Shannon Welsh, who greeted an enthusiastic crowd that ranged from babies to senior citizens.

Welsh said she has been involved with the Durham school for 11 years, first as superintendent and later as superintendent for RSU 5, which includes the towns of Durham, Pownal and Freeport.

“It’s been a good ride . . . a long time coming,” Welsh said, referring to the new school. She thanked the many groups, committees and individuals who helped make the project a reality. She noted Don and Eleanor Learnard, who, when they had to leave their home, offered to sell their abutting property to the school. Eleanor Learnard had always envisioned a new school being built on their property and being part of the campus.

The flag presentation was conducted by Boy Scout Troop 145, the Pledge of Allegiance was given by Girl Scout Cadette Troop 3548 and a rendition of the national anthem was sung by Mitchell C. Thomas.

That was followed by a musical selection, “Grasp the Dream,” by the Durham Community School Band.

Durham native Ernest Tibbets, who previously served on both the Durham School Committee and the town Budget Committee for many years, cut the red ribbon at the main entrance, after which the doors opened to the public for the first time.

Members of the seventh and eighth grades conducted tours of the interior, and refreshments were provided. By the end of the open house, an estimated 2,000 people had signed the guest books.

The two-story, 85,000-square-foot school is situated on 11 acres, has geothermal heating and cooling, 28 classrooms, large paved parking lots and ball fields.

The state is paying $20 million of the cost, while local voters opted to pay an additional $2 million for peaked roofs, a larger gymnasium and the geothermal system, which the state would not fund.

There will be an additional open house and tours from 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 18.


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