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The Home Stretch

Thirteen months since the first pillar of steel was erected on the site of the new Guilford High School, a community’s efforts are finally reaching fruition. After a prolonged movement by citizens, educators, and students alike, the $92 million building was approved at referendum in June 2011. Now, in the dawning months of 2015, a shimmering tower of glass stands testament to these years of persistence.

Reaching three stories tall, the new school has steadily taken shape in the shadow of the current building, coming to eclipse it in both scale and grandeur. An expansive array of sound and odor-proof glass encases its many faces, offering panoramic views of the New England scenery, and on clear winter days, a glimpse of Long Island Sound.

As if an extension of the landscape itself, these picturesque sights give way to a building as magnificent on the inside as it is out. In choreography with a natural color scheme, the ground level’s earth tones will evolve into a neutral palette on the middle floor, and then open into blue, sky tones for the highest story.

In addition to providing a refreshing and soothing learning environment, this color scheme concurrently keeps in line with the healthy Guilford-Hand rivalry. Living up to his reputation for “Most School Spirit,” Mr. Misenti unabashedly ensured that “this will be the gym of the shoreline!”

More than anything else, this action reflects a larger philosophy pervasive throughout the entire process: embrace the new, but never leave tradition far behind. Such will be the case when students walk through the front doors of the school next fall, greeted by a magnificent circle of local granite, eight feet in diameter and engraved with the 1914 class shield. In conjunction with this centerpiece will be a plaque describing the history of the class shields, in addition to awards cases and a transparent glass screen onto which current activities and events will be projected.

Moving throughout the building, it is clear that every aspect of the space is deliberately designed and brilliantly executed. The changes are numerous, beginning foremost with an atrium running the entire length of the building from north to south. Allowing natural light to pour in from above, it will illuminate both the surrounding walkways and a central commons area below. The library, now identified as the Technology Information Center, will increase its collection of digital media in pursuit of a more eco-friendly and technological workspace. Coupled with computer kiosks situated around the building, it is clear that opportunities for learning will rest around every corner.

This transition to modern technology is a theme encompassed throughout the entire design process, evident in the Internet cafés consisting of high tables and comfortable seating. The classrooms themselves will now be located in pods, allowing a streamlined and safe flow of traffic across the building’s three main (and yes, very wide) stairwells to any of these numerous resources.

Stretching more than 200,000 square feet, it is often easy to forget that this state of the art building is a high school at all. Yet, for Mr. Misenti, this is just the point. “We want to create a collegiate atmosphere” he remarked, “one in which students will have as many different opportunities to get their homework done as possible.”

These advancements, however, are not limited solely to academics. For the new baseball field on campus, players will welcome larger dugouts, a P.A. system, a media booth, a new scoreboard and bleachers, as well as home and away bull pens and batting cages. Wrestlers will receive a break, literally, in having to manually move and store their mats with the addition of mechanical winches to do the heavy lifting.

A renowned drama and music department, long forced to adapt a less than ideal practice and performance venue, will no longer have such a concern. With an acoustician in consultation, the practice spaces were perfected to maximize sound quality for the band, orchestra, and choral rooms. And of course, there is the new auditorium. Fit with stadium seating for 650 (compared to 400 currently,) an extendable stage, catwalk, and sound rooms, the space projects a sophisticated and grandiose air fit for a professional theatre.

It is, in every sense of the word, a truly modern building. From its physical layout to the integration of cutting edge technology, the new Guilford High School represents the future of learning not only in our community, but across the entire nation. To be at the forefront of this educational revolution is an honor and a privilege, one that Mr. Misenti does not take lightly.

Maneuvering through the unfinished halls of the building with an infectious enthusiasm, he makes it a point to stop when passing every construction worker on site. In a short sentence, identical each time, he speaks for the entire school in saying “Thank you for building our school.”