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The New Hampden Academy

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The New Hampden Academy edge photos by Jodi Hersey
New school year begins with a brand new high school

HAMPDEN - It's been an exciting start to the school year for high-schoolers living in SAD 22 who began the 2012-2013 school year in a brand new building off Western Avenue. The new school has been in the works for some time, and now its hallways and classrooms, filled with fresh paint and supplies, are finally bustling with students, staff and faculty.

"The whole building is just fabulous," said Principal Ruey Yehle. "I think the opportunities this building will bring to our students are definitely an improvement over the opportunities the old building brought them."

Some of the noticeable changes include the increase in space, the new performing arts center, a whole new science wing on the third floor with equipment that was non-existent at the old location and a new college and career center that is a particular favorite of Hampden senior, Katie Asalone.

"The college career center is huge. There's a ton of light in there," said Asalone, who spent most of her summer as a docent, giving tours of the new school when needed.

sciroom"I really like all the natural light. There isn't that whole aspect of dim lighting. In a lot of classrooms, you can't look straight out, and that'll be less distracting - which will be good and bad at the same time," explained Asalone.

Another bonus this new school offers is that all the classrooms are under one roof, which means the approximate 725 students currently enrolled at the school will no longer have to walk outdoors to get to their next class.

"We had, I think, 16 classrooms outside the main building. Kids had to go outside in the rain, sleet, and snow and the teachers were feeling pretty isolated if they were outside [in the portable classrooms] in bad weather," explained Yehle.

But not anymore. According to SAD 22 Superintendent Rick Lyons, every Hampden student and teacher will be connected with their own Apple iPad.

"It will bring availability and effective learning to a whole new level," said Lyons.

The feat wasn't cheap.

"This [entire project] cost about 50 million dollars. Eighty-five percent of that came from the state; 15 percent from local funding," explained Lyons.

auditoriumThat local funding helped expand the school's auditorium into the 900-seat performing arts center that it is today. Local monies also contributed to the school's geothermal heating and cooling system, an expanded wellness center and larger science classrooms. The new building even has room to grow.

"Two thirds of the third floor has no classrooms, but the roof is prepared [and the space is available] to add either eight traditional size classrooms or fewer if we make more science classrooms up there," said Yehle.

No matter what, Yehle said, an increase in the student body will not mean larger class sizes.

"The school board and I have made a very big commitment to maintain appropriate class size levels as we grow. And as we gain more students, we'll be adding more teachers to make sure the personalized education we provide for students is able to continue even in a large building," she said.

Dylan Cole, who graduated in May before the new school officially opened, made sure to leave his mark at the new facility. Cole created a bronze medallion that sits atop a time capsule just inside the main entrance of the building.

"Mrs. Yehle came into my architectural design class and asked if anyone wanted to work on this," said Cole. "She gave me a pending sketch from a student in the class of 2009 and she asked me to base it off of that. So I edited it, changed it around and made it my own."

And Cole isn't the only one leaving a lasting impression inside these walls. The new cafeteria is named after Assistant Principal David Greenier. A plague honoring his four-plus decades of service at Hampden Academy hangs at the entrance of the new dining commons.

"He's been the assistant principal for the last 44 years and he taught one year, so he's been with us for 45 years," explained Yehle. "He was instrumental in closing the old building and helping open this building."

The public and the families from the SAD 22 community, which includes Hampden, Winterport and Newburgh, got the opportunity to tour the town's newest addition just prior to school starting.

"It's an awesome school, it really is," said Mary Lou Deane. "I wanted to see what the opportunities are for my grandchildren who will be going here in the future."

Deane's husband is a former Hampden student, but Deane herself grew up in Winterport and went to high school in Brewer since Hampden Academy was not a schooling option for students living in Winterport at that time.

bronco"[Later] I took night courses at the other Hampden Academy. This one is a lot bigger, the halls are wider and it's a lot more wheelchair accessible. I just feel everything is so much fresher here, and hopefully students will take advantage of what they're offering here at Hampden Academy," said Deane.

In the meantime, the old school on Main Road North, with its old-fashioned school house facade, traditional flagpole and bronco mascot, will go back into the hands of the town.

"The town of Hampden and our board of directors are working on an agreement that the town will take over the building in exchange for a certain amount of cash. They gave us about 60 acres of land that abuts Reeds Brook [middle school], so we plan to build cross country trails and nature trails for the sciences," said Yehle.

It's not just the students who are benefitting from all this. The community is welcomed and encouraged to use the facility's new tennis courts, eight-lane track and public meeting space.

"I think it'll be a great opportunity [and space] for the community to use and rent out," said Deane.

However, the new Hampden Academy just wouldn't be complete without the school's trademark bronco. That's why sculptor Forest Hart decided to make a new bronze bronco for SAD 22. It was unveiled during the school's ribbon cutting and open house ceremony last month. It's a sight students will be able to enjoy for years to come.

"It is very bittersweet," said Asalone. "I miss the old school [already] because it had a lot of heart. This one doesn't have much yet, but it will."

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