Ribbon cutting ceremonies Thursday marked the official opening of the new Plymouth South High School.
PLYMOUTH – Some would say it started with prayers. Others give the nod to good old-fashioned community activism. But taxpaying voters and state and local officials ultimately made the new Plymouth South High School a reality.
More than a decade after a successful campaign for funding, the new home of the Panthers opened this summer, as the town took the keys on a comprehensive school that will serve as a model for combined academic and vocational programs for the state.
State and local officials joined parents, teachers and students Thursday in officially marking the opening with a ribbon cutting ceremony in the first auditorium Plymouth South has ever known.
Designed by Ai3 Architects and built on time and on budget by Agostini-Bacon Construction, the new school opened to its first class of students in late August. Demolition of the old school and construction of new ball fields will last another year.
Building Committee Chairman David Peck said good things come to those who wait, noting that this year’s seniors were first-graders when the town approved funding for the new school in 2006.
The original Plymouth South was not even two decades old at the time, but the building was already suffering from numerous structural problems, including a roof that leaked in the gym, the library and in several classrooms.
Speakers noted it was no coincidence that the improvements came after the district hired Gary Maestas as superintendent and Patty Fry as Plymouth South principal.
State Sen. Vinnny deMacedo, R-Plymouth, said Maestas and his team made it easy to support the school project, despite a contentious vote for funding. “It’s exciting to see what’s happened here in 10 years,” deMacedo said.
State Rep. Mathew Muratore, R-Plymouth, who was on the town’s Finance Committee at the time of the override vote, credited Fry, now an assistant superintendent, for reminding the public of school’s physical deficiencies, even as she gained national recognition for improving the school’s culture.
Muratore said local taxpayers and especially senior citizens deserve credit for recognizing the need for quality education and funding a $200 million override for two high schools and a senior center 11 years ago. Senior citizens drove the vote, he said, even though many never lived to see the school.
Muratore and deMacedo joined Maestas in singling out former state Senate President Therese Murray for ultimately getting the school built. “A lot of people were out front, but she was the one pushing it from behind,” Muratore said.
Jack McCarthy, executive director of the Massachusetts School Building Authority, said Murray was instrumental in building the program, which has gone on to spend $12 billion on school improvements statewide.
Matching grants from the state contributed $45 million to the Plymouth South project and $103 million to the town for both new schools.
“I know it seems like this is a love fest for Terry Murray, but it should be a love fest for Terry Murray. I don’t have to tell you what she did down here, but there would not be a Massachusetts School Building Authority if it was not for the leadership of Terry Murray in 2004 when she helped put forward the legislation that created us,” McCarthy said. “Thank you so much for the your leadership, not only for the children of Plymouth, but for the students across the commonwealth of Massachusetts.”
Maestas said working with the MSBA was a rigorous process, but the state's strict requirements had clear benefits. "These requirements of the MSBA have helped us to have a better building and I believe it will benefit the community of Plymouth long, long beyond the previous building,” Maestas said.
Maestas credited Assistant Superintendent Christopher Campbell with putting together the educational specifications for the school. That plan is now listed as the educational model for schools like Plymouth South that combine academic programs with vocational programs.
Selectman Chairman Kenneth Tavares thanked voters who brought the town together on the project. Tavares noted that since the 1620, Plymouth has always put its children first. But students now must grab the opportunity and make a difference, he said.