June 17, 2018
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20 years in the making: New Hampden Academy holding grand opening Monday

By Andrew Neff, BDN Staff

HAMPDEN, Maine — What took 20 years to go from proposal to finished project will take about 30 minutes to dedicate on Monday evening.

Hampden’s new $49.2 million high school will hold its first major event as Maine Commissioner of Education Stephen Bowen and several other guests take part in the school’s 5:30 p.m. dedication ceremony.

“Monday really is the culminating moment of this 20-year effort,” said Rick Lyons, SAD 22 (Hampden, Winterport, Newburgh) school superintendent. “This is a monumental occasion for me professionally. I’ve actually been working on this project for 20 of my 21 years here.”

The SAD 22 school department first put in a proposal for a new school with the state in 1993. Eight more proposals and 13 years later, the proposal was accepted.

“In 2005, we still missed the list. Then we hired a lobbyist and moved from 17th on the list of 14 funded schools all the way up by finding ways to put more money from us into that project,” Lyons said. “The state has contributed 85 percent of [the] total cost.”

And Hampden residents are paying about $6,175,000.

“This facility really will be transformative for kids from the standpoint of teaching and learning,” Lyons said. “Each student in this facility and every faculty member will have an iPad and each classroom will have its own projector allowing students to project their iPad content or images onto a class whiteboard.”

That’s just one of many technical nuances and wrinkles making the new school cutting edge. Others include a 900-seat performing arts center — the second largest in the area behind the University of Maine’s Collins Center; the largest closed-loop geothermal heating system in Maine, according to Emil Genest, SAD 22 assistant superintendent; solar energy; a $1.2 million, 1,200-seat gymnasium; a fitness center; and other advances and amenities.

“Today as we speak, they’re installing the fitness center equipment and that should be open to the community starting in the second semester,” Lyons said. “It’s a true community center as well as a campus.

“All our grades are within a five-minute walk of each other and the facilities from arts to athletics are available for use to more than just high school students.”

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