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New Auburn High School shines through, visitors say | SLIDESHOW

Marci Killian, culinary arts teacher, gets comfortable in the spacious kitchen at the new Auburn High School.  - Rachel Ciampi, Auburn Reporter
Marci Killian, culinary arts teacher, gets comfortable in the spacious kitchen at the new Auburn High School.
— image credit: Rachel Ciampi, Auburn Reporter

More than 75 years of Auburn High School graduating classes walked past old lamp stands, up stairs and through the front doors of the soon-to-open school off East Main Street, Aug. 21.

From there, bodies young, old and everywhere in between fanned out into classrooms, gawked at the familiar Trojan emblem that once advertised the old gym but is now a short hop from the entry, milled about in the commons area, climbed up and down stairs, opened and closed doors, smiled and pointed.

Many inspected legacy items from the old school, here a piece of corner stone, there some familiar gold lettering. Outside the second-floor library some stopped to read the old school's 1950 dedication plaque.

Like a car buyer kicking a tire, one older fellow rapped his knuckles on wood paneling flanking the main stairwell to check, we may assume, its solidity.

"It's cool, but it's weird that our old high school is gone," said Lisa Burhenn, a member of the graduating class of 2000. "I like that they have stuff from the old school."

"I like the idea that the two old lights out front were in front of the old school, then they put them over here and then kept them again and put them right back where they started," said Curt Burhenn.

Admiring the library, piled with boxes, strewn with implements, were Jeanette and Loren Sturz, both of the AHS class of 1974.

"It's just beautiful. The old school's time was up," Jeanette said.

"I'm sure glad to see they kept the signs and things," Loren said.

Violet Nelson, class of '49 and her daughter, Janelle (Nelson) Miller, class of '83, grooved on the library, too.

"Oh my gosh, these kids are so lucky," Violet said.

Back on the first floor, there to greet everybody, a beaming, proud Mike Newman, deputy superintendent of the Auburn School District and the project's shepherd from day one.

"We're ready to go, on time Sept. 3," Newman announced, adding that even "the north campus" will be open on time. "That's what we're calling the temporary classroom areas on the north campus. Even though that's the old building, we've been able to do some things in those classrooms to get them up to standards."

Not only does the voter-approved, $110 million, three-story, red brick structure replace the 64-year-old building on 4th Street Northeast with a giant exclamation point, it's on the same ground where AHS was intended to be.

So how does the new school differ? In every way.

Let there be genuine light

First of all, that stuff streaming through all of the open classroom windows, is genuine daylight. Many rooms in the old school were illuminated only by fluorescent light.

There are short-throw interactive projectors in every classroom, a new teaching tool for instructors.

There's the big and many-windowed commons area. Buses will deposit students just outside and they will enter through the commons on their way to where they need to be.

And, crucial from a safety standpoint, where the former school had 87 security-problematic access points, its replacement has only two entries, which will lock when the school day starts. The school has closed-circuit security cameras to monitor what goes on. Students will be moving from the old, less-secure campus to the new, more-secure campus throughout the day for the first year, but after construction is completed on the new gymnasium and music building in 2015, the new building can then be locked down tight as a drum.

For teachers and students alike, Newman said, it will be much more pleasant to be in the new building, with its capacity for greater temperature control than the old school, tied as it was to gasping, wheezing, geezer boilers, hot on cold days, hot on hot days, and prone to breaking down and leaving students and teachers shivering in the cold.

And no, Newman was quick to point out, boilers from the old school are not among the legacy items.

"No, we let them take those away, recycle the old materials ... Who knows though, maybe there'll be a nostalgia room where people who want to can suffer the ill effects of the old campus boiler," Newman joked.

"This building is gorgeous, I don't even know where to start," said AHS Principal Richard Zimmerman. "We're completely wireless in the building. We're the most technologically advanced building in the state right now because of the facilities, the technology involved. It's going to be a great place for kids."

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