Mascoma High's new auditorium.

Mascoma High Ready to Dazzle and Deliver

Submitted 2 years ago
Created by
Andrew Cushing

move over, Upper Valley schools

This is the second of two articles that celebrate the opening of the renovated and expanded Mascoma Valley Regional High School.

Mascoma Valley Regional High School's new campus is so gorgeous, and until recently, so unimaginable, that you may think it's a mirage.

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It's no mirage. And the inside is just as spectacular, if not more so.

Excitement is mounting throughout the district for September 6, when the $21.5 million renovation and expansion is put to the test by students. A brand new auditorium, band room, library, art room, and special education wing join a renovated wood shop, science classrooms, and gymnasium in the first major investment in the school since its construction in 1963.

The new band/chorus room.

The new art room.

The new lobby, with ticket booth on the right.

The renovated gymnasium is dedicated to former coach and PE teacher, Ed Kehoe.

What is perhaps most impressive is the district’s unapologetic embrace of the arts. In an age of STEM curricula and slashing arts programs, Mascoma’s new wing includes bright new spaces for theater, band, chorus, painting, and pottery. Artwork commissioned by the Friends of Mascoma – including a tapestry by Becky Powell, a cherry bench by Gary Wood, and a multidimensional mural by Michael Kraatz and Susan Russell - promise to strengthen the school’s connection to the fine arts.

In addition, the beloved Generations Mural, created in 1994, was saved and will be relocated higher above spitball level in the renovated cafeteria.

Gary Wood, of Canaan, stands next to his cherry bench. Wood led a woodworking demonstration with the high school's wood shop. Courtesy of Friends of Mascoma.

Becky Powell, of Enfield, weaves a tapestry that will eventually reflect the district's five towns. Courtesy of Friends of Mascoma.

The Generations Mural depicts historical moments in the Mascoma Valley, and was preserved during the renovations. Courtesy of Friends of Mascoma.

Superintendent Patrick Andrew (a former science teacher at the high school) is more diplomatic.

“I think there was something for everyone,” Andrew says. “While the Arts did finally get legitimate space for their programming we did also completely renovate and upgrade the science labs and science storage and add five new classrooms as well as expand and improve the wood shop.”

Heather Oliver, a 2005 graduate and current science teacher at Mascoma will spend most of her time in the upgraded laboratories. “The first thing I thought when I saw the renovations was ‘I can’t believe I get to work here!’” The expanded science rooms allow for separate classroom learning and laboratory experiments. Mrs. Oliver will not miss the sounds of elbows knocking over beakers due to the tight quarters in the old space.  

“It's like a whole new school and hopefully that will bring back some of the old Mascoma Pride when the kids arrive. It's going to be a good year to be a royal!” Mrs. Oliver adds.

The science classes expanded into the courtyard.

Beyond the Façade

The facility upgrades are beautiful, but many in the district hope that the renovation will be a turning point for a high school that seldom receives positive press, especially when compared to neighboring districts like Lebanon or Hanover. Others hope that the investment pays off financially.

Student population has dropped 17.5% between 2001 and 2015 (indeed, this is a statewide trend). In order to attract families moving to the Upper Valley, Mascoma officials and community leaders knew that they had to invest in the hallmark facility: the high school. With Canaan and Enfield Elementary Schools already some of the best in the state, the district needed to ensure students would succeed through grade 12.

“The best communities to live in in NH have top quality schools. Investment in good schools is a long lasting investment in your community," says Mr. Andrew. “I think that today the renovated high school puts students from the five towns on equal or better footing for a high quality high school education than any high school across the country.”

Is the multi-million dollar investment and Mr. Andrew's boosterism enough to convince families to locate in the Mascoma district?

Time will tell. But the district is certainly looking good these days.

For now, Mascoma alumni are encouraged to attend this year’s homecoming the weekend of September 16th. The annual festivity will include the senior bonfire on Friday night followed by generously-donated fireworks (the rumor is the fireworks will be huge).

On Saturday, September 17th there will be homecoming athletic matches and public tours of the high school. That evening, the Friends of Mascoma are hosting a celebratory fundraising dinner. Tickets are available for that here.

The whole weekend promises to be a celebration fit for the very Royals who made the impossible not just possible, but beautiful.

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