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Officials, townsfolk gather for ribbon-cutting and cake to celebrate new school

A wide, gauzy red ribbon stretched from post to post across the main entry to the new Hildreth Elementary School. The ribbon-cutting ceremony last Sunday afternoon marked the official dedication of the new school building. Tied with a big bow, the ribbon looked like the topping for a giant birthday present. And, like any good birthday party, there was cake at the end.

“School buildings really come alive when they are filled with students,” Superintendent Linda Dwight said in her welcoming speech to about 100 attendees. “This building exudes joy,” she said. Behind Dwight and the other speakers, images of the new school’s bright interior appeared on the large screen—children walking past the colorful murals; children sitting on the giant, carpeted learning staircase; a child curled up with a book in a little one-person niche.

School Committee Chair SusanMary Redinger and Superintendent Linda Dwight cut the ribbon at the dedication of Hildreth Elementary School, Nov. 14. Front row, from left: Ayla Dandridge, Ruva Sikochi, Lena Aloise; Dylan, Vera, and Sadie Cantin; Clara and Julia Aloise; and Suzi Gowel.  Back row, from left: MSBA Director Jack McCarthy, Dwight, Redinger, state Sen. Jamie Eldridge, state Rep. Daniel Sena. (Photos by Jesse Boudreau)

The overwhelming theme of the dedication ceremony, held in the new gym/auditorium, was gratitude to all the teams who had worked on the project and to the town and community for their support. Speakers also emphasized that the new school will serve generations of children far into the future, beyond the lifetimes of those who worked on it.

Jack McCarthy, executive director of the Massachusetts School Building Authority, praised Harvard’s School Building Committee that oversaw the multiyear project. “You’re on time, and you’re on budget,” he said. The MSBA paid about $18 million of the project cost, and McCarthy quoted Benjamin Franklin’s proverb, “An investment in education pays the best interest.”

From left: Pam Chapman and Clara Aloise listen as Ruva Sikochi speaks on behalf of the HES students.  

Two fourth-graders, Ruva Sikochi and Clara Aloise, spoke about what the building meant to them. “Personally, I like the library,” Ruva read from her essay. “It does not have any walls anymore, but it has lots of cozy corners where you can really focus on your book.”

Clara’s poem spoke of “the building all so beautiful and new,” but concluded: “It’s the staff who help us learn and grow/ It’s the memories made/ The friendships/ The experiences/ Those who came here every day to build it brick by brick/ That’s what makes this school/ My school.”

State Sen. Jamie Eldridge congratulates the town on its new school.

Dwight and other speakers gave much credit to SusanMary Redinger, who chaired both the School Committee and the School Building Committee for most of the six-year project. Redinger in turn thanked the building committee members, with special thanks to Ron Ostberg and Carl Sciple. She also emphasized the achievements of the architectural team from Arrowstreet; of the project director Tom Murphy of NV5; and of Shawmut Construction managers Phil Conroy and Jon Seymour.

State Sen. Jamie Eldridge and state Rep. Dan Sena were also on hand to congratulate the town on the project’s completion.

Select Board member Alice von Loesecke, who was also a member of the building committee, pointed out that the new school is the first building in Harvard to earn Silver LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification.

And Jen Manell, of the citizens’ group Yes 2 HES, thanked Harvard voters for outstanding attendance at the 2018 Town Meeting and Town Election where the school project was approved. She urged HES students, “When you are old enough, be good citizens, and vote. Voting made this happen.”

After the speeches ended, everyone filed out of the gym to the school’s main entrance, where Redinger cut the ceremonial red ribbon. The chocolate and vanilla cakes were cut, too, and shared with the crowd, bringing the celebration to a close.

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