Senior Alice Hauser walks down the hallway at Kennebunk High School, where nearly $42.8 million in renovations are being completed. Credit: Jennifer Bryant | York County Coast Star

KENNEBUNK, Maine — Looking around the new Kennebunk High School, Principal Sue Cressey beams with pride.

And she’s not the only one. Faculty speak about the new building and the opportunities it provides with joy and thankfulness, students talk about their education and time at the school with excitement, and during an open house last Friday, Nov. 23, alumni and community members shared that excitement.

“It’s just so beautiful. There’s a lot of pride in this renovation,” Principal Sue Cressey said.

The $42.8 million renovation to Kennebunk High School is nearly complete, with just a few “punch list” items left to be finished, Cressey said. It is the final project of the $56.5 million voter-approved renovations to KHS, Kennebunkport Consolidated School and Mildred L. Day School, to be completed.

More than 600 community members and alumni toured the new building during an open house the Friday after Thanksgiving. Superintendent Katie Hawes was thrilled with the turnout and said officials planned the open house for that day in hopes that younger alumni who were home from college would be able to see the new facility.

[Kennebunk teachers ‘very happy’ about $42.8M high school renovation]

“It’s nice to have the community in here to see what their money went toward,” Hawes said. “We are hearing so many genuine comments of support.”

A group of young alumni toured the art and science classrooms, remarking at everything from the large classroom size to the STEM equipment.

“It’s a great learning environment,” said Richard Platt, a 2015 KHS graduate.

“It’s amazing. I think it’s a good use of town money,” added Ethan Taylor, a 2008 graduate.

Liz Beard McLaughlin, a class of 1982 graduate, was visiting from Virginia for the Thanksgiving holiday, and was glad to be able to tour the new facility.

“The only thing that looks the same is the facade,” she said referring to the outside appearance of the original 1939 building. “The front of the school that faces Fletcher Street, that’s the only thing recognizable.”

Jane and Kevin Cain’s daughters, Beth and Eileen graduated in 2000 and 2004 respectively, and were involved in theater, spending many hours on the stage in the Economos Auditorium. As they looked around the newly renovated space, which is now a modern lecture hall with more than 100 seats, they could see the elements of character of the old building that were preserved, including the unique tile mosaic that surrounds the stage and the floor to ceiling windows.

Credit: Donna Buttarazzi | York County Coast Star

“I’m just glad they preserved it,” they both said.

Taking the York County Coast Star around the school this week, Cressey said improvements of the new building include conference space for staff, wide hallways and stairways, theater dressing rooms she called a “dream come true,” state of the art computer rooms, and more.

“It’s given us a chance to do all the programs, but taking it to the next level because now we have the facility to support that,” she said, speaking about things like proper ventilation needed for classes like jewelry making.

In the STEM program, students have the ability to design on computers and create with tools used in the industrial art programs. Teacher Richard Kane said students are currently working on creating and building a remote-controlled airplane from scratch.

Senior Alex Felvinci said the new engineering room is “amazing” compared to what it was before the renovation. Felvinci said he wants to pursue a college education in computer science, and while he was interested in the field before his time at KHS, the education he received has “definitely fostered growth in that interest.”

“There’s so much more resources and tools we can use,” he said. “It lets you be more productive and get work done.”

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Students in the band room prepping for class after lunch, talked about the acoustics and space the band and chorus have now, enough to gather in one space, and even practice rooms and space to store their instruments.

“It’s a lot better for our band,” junior Emily L’Heureux, who plays the bass clarinet, said of the space.

The biggest and most important improvement, Cressey said, is safety. Visitors are required to enter through a secure sign-in system, security cameras are located throughout the school, and all entrances and exits are locked.

“It’s a huge step forward,” Cressey said.

In the main lobby of the school is a television screen displaying announcements, a bench dedicated by the Class of 1943 (the first class to graduate from the original 1939 building,) and a Ram, a gift from the Class of 2017, which Cressey said is particularly special “because they never really got to enjoy the building.”

“It’s mesmerizing,” Cressey said looking around the main lobby, which all common areas are located off of.

“It’s just beyond our expectations. We’re so grateful to the community,” Cressey said. “What I saw the other night is so much pride from the community and it’s a building they’ll be able to use.”