Sixty years ago a group of teenagers pulled up in front of the “new” Attleboro High School to check it out.
A story in The Sun Chronicle about times past — the days of hot rods, cruising and early rock ‘n’ roll — put it like this: “And on the last day of summer vacation in 1962, Attleboro kids interrupted their cruising, to check out their new school digs.”
And for that story, the reporter referenced another who worked for what was then The Attleboro Sun, who witnessed what happened on that day 60 years ago.
“Periodically late yesterday afternoon and early evening, groups of high school students traveling in cars visited the site of city’s new senior high school. (They) looked it over from the outside and apparently satisfied with what they saw, drove off,” the story said.
Life was good. The school was new, sturdy and handsome, as handsome was in those days.
Sixty years later, that school, built for $3.75 million and added to in 1973, is looking a little ramshackle, especially next to the towering, four-story, gleaming edifice at 1 Blue Pride Way next door.
Sixty years on, the students of today, who cruise on the Internet instead of cars, may not show up to take a peek.
But, of course, many have watched the school rise out of an old parking lot and softball field over the last three years.
And there's a virtual tour online.
School Superintendent David Sawyer noted in the Lights Out Ceremony last month the old school had served the community well, but now it was time to say goodbye and move on to a new school, a new century and a new era.
His office and support staff were moved into the new high school built for $259.9 million during the week of July 11.
And new high school Principal Kate Campbell and her office were moved in as well.
She’s taking the place of the irrepressible Bill Runey, who has moved to the superintendent of schools job in the Dighton-Rehoboth district.
In an email on Wednesday, Campbell was effusive in her praise of the new building.
“It truly is the most spectacular school I have ever seen,” she said.
And spectacular it is.
Consigli Construction is the general contractor, Skanska USA is the project manager and architectural firm Kaestle Boos was the designer.
Last week, a photographer and reporter toured the nearly complete building and it was shimmering, shining and cool on a very hot day.
It is 472,000 square feet, bigger than the 428,000-square-foot sprawling labyrinth next door which will soon be razed.
Consigli has brought the school to completion on time, and on budget, breaking ground in October 2019 and finishing in less than three years despite the pandemic.
By opening day on Aug. 29, there will be at least 570 parking spaces, the number the old school had. That number will eventually expand to around 700.
The old school will be torn down in a counter-clockwise fashion, starting with the familiar front on Rathbun Willard Drive.
That will begin in August.
By November, the crews will have worked their way to the back and will start moving toward the front, taking down the “new” section of the old school on the current Blue Pride Way.
Parking lots will be in by Thanksgiving and the bus loop will be completed before the new year and Rathbun Willard Drive, which has been in two pieces for decades, will be rejoined and put through to Thacher Street, connecting the high school, Brennan Middle School and Studley Elementary on one sprawling campus.
Some students will spend their whole school career in that one spot.
There will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 16, which is by invitation only, but the public will get to see the building on Sept. 24 in an open house.
Students who will attend the new school will find it more compact and much easier to get around.
There are four “houses” and four floors.
They are all in front. The corridors run east and west and up and down so it’s easy to find your way around.
Amenities, like the cafeteria, auditorium and gymnasium are in back along with the Career and Technical Education programs, of which there are now 20.
Some of those programs will offer services to the public. Those will include banking, graphic arts and dining in the Blue Pride Bistro.
The public will be able to access these services from a front entrance that allows access to the student-run businesses, but not to the rest of the school.
Classrooms are set up to foster “collaborative learning.”
Even the desks are designed for that purpose.
They are triangular and can be arranged so that four students can sit together and discuss a topic, face-to-face.
In the halls, there’s space for collaborative learning as well.
The bus loop is in the back where many of the students will enter.
The back door opens to the cafeteria, which is located between the Bray Auditorium and the gym.
But those entering from the back can meet their friends entering from the front because the space is open from front to back with a giant staircase in the middle.
A glass wall in the back looks out at the football stadium.
It is, in essence, a gathering place before classes, where laughter and talk will ring off the walls for generations to come.
The Bray Auditorium is smaller than the current auditorium. It seats about 850 or so.
But as School Building Committee Vice Chairman Jack Jacobi said, “There’s not a bad seat in the house.”
And he’s right.
It’s much cozier than the current auditorium and everyone should be able to see and hear everything that’s staged.
The stage is wide and deep and leads into a carpenter shop where sets can be built and into band room where musicians can gather before a concert.
It’s a very professional set up and has catwalks above to position the lighting for shows.
The gym seats 1,800.
Overlooking the basketball court, emblazoned with Attleboro in blue, on the second floor, are weight rooms and workout rooms with a big collage of past athletic events imposed on a wall with a blue haze overlay.
It’s where the past meets the present.
Many images were taken from Sun Chronicle photos.
But, as they say, pictures are worth a thousand words, so we’ll stop here and let every photo tell its story — except for one thing.
In Campbell’s office, which is at the front door in the middle of the school, is a clock that many of those 1962 students looked at in the high school on County Street, which was built in 1914 and which preceded the high school on Rathbun Willard Drive.
It was in the auditorium and now it tells the time in the principal’s office at 1 Blue Pride Way.
It looks new with a fresh face like those students who will be pouring through the doors on Aug. 29, the first day of school, but it’s the same clock, now more than 100 years old.
The great-grandparents or great-great-grandparents or the great-great-great-grandparents of those students coming in looked at the same clock, which now unites them through time.