LEWISTON — When art and music students go to class Tuesday, it won’t be the basement they head toward but the new two-story addition to Lewiston High School.

After 18 months of construction, the high school’s first arts and music wing is open, and students and staff are thrilled. Unlike the makeshift rooms in the basement they’ve used for decades, the new classrooms were specifically built to meet the unique needs of the visual and performing arts department.

Chorus and piano teacher Erin Morrison said her old classroom has been “a hallway, it’s been next to the loading dock, next to the dumpsters.”

“It’s so surreal,” she said. “I have windows. I’ve never had windows my whole teaching career, I’m so excited!”

The new chorus room is large, with a raised ceiling and acoustic paneling on the walls and floors. Morrison said these features will significantly improve the quality of sound, compared to her previous room.

“It’s gorgeous, and I’m so flabbergasted in the best way,” she said. “I was making due with what I had, but to have a space that was literally designed for what I do is just mind blowing in the best way. I’m just ecstatic.”

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Painting and drawing teacher Laura Manchester explained that having three large sinks, rather than one tiny sink in the corner, will speed up cleaning and allow more time for students to work. Photography teacher Sarah Stocker shared that each of her students will have a computer to edit photos in her new classroom, when previously they had to share.

And Tim Baxter-Ferguson, the new theater teacher, said the removable wall between his classroom and the one next door means that the after-school drama program will no longer need to travel to the middle school to practice.

For the art and music programs, the move from the basement to the new addition is figurative as well as physical. Many teachers said the rooms in the basement — sometimes referred to as the “dungeon” — were scattered and easily forgotten by students and staff.

“I think the unintended message was that the arts were tucked away, not that important, they’re in make-shift spaces,” said Jody Dube, the content leader for the visual and performing arts department. “I think often times our arts students didn’t feel like their passion was valued the same way that some other things may be.”

Conversations about building a dedicated wing for the visual and performing arts department began 20 years ago, however other, more pressing projects were prioritized, Dube said. it wasn’t until several years ago under former Superintendent Bill Webster that these conversations turned to action.

The $13.4 million project was approved in November 2019. Early plans included only a single-floor addition for the arts and music programs, but the district saw an opportunity to address other needs in the high school.

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By making the addition two stories, the high school was able to give teachers who previously moved from room to room each period a classroom of their own. The life skills program, which serves students with special needs, was relocated from the basement to a room in the nearby B-wing near the newly-added elevator and the renovated administrative offices.

The addition also made it possible to add two new programs to the high school, Dufour said: theater and computer science.

“It was something that was really able to pick up steam because we have a project that sort of checked off multiple boxes that the school needed, versus one,” Assistant Principal Jay Dufour said.

Teachers in the visual and performing arts department are particularly excited to have space to show off student work and be near each other for the first time.

“It is wonderful to have my colleagues all on this floor together,” Stocker said. “We have been far flung throughout the building … we are going to be a real community, and we’re looking forward to that.”

The high school is planning an open house for parents and community members to tour the new addition March 24.

“I think (the new construction) will give students, staff and community members some place really warm and welcoming to come to, where student creativity is not only just provided for but is celebrated,” Dube said. “(The new space) creates a scenario where we really truly value the creative process and the arts at the high school here.”


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