TOWNSEND — North Middlesex Regional High School gave a hearty thank you to everyone building the new high school Thursday with the traditional topping off ceremony.
“Thank you for being part of our family,” said Superintendent Joan Landers to the students, government officials and builders assembled for the event, postponed from earlier in the week due to a snowstorm.
On Jan. 21, ironworkers hoisted the highest beam, covered with student signatures, into place. That beam will remain visible when the building is complete.
A forest of steel girders now reaches into the sky beside the high school. Staff and students have watched the construction’s progress every day this school year.
The students gave a special thank you to the ironworkers, calling them to the front of the auditorium and giving each a present.
“They do this to bring us a new building,” said sophomore Alexander Nick. “Thank you for creating change.”
Students rose for a spontaneous standing ovation.
The tradition of holding a topping off ceremony originated in Scandinavia, said student Caleb Chew. It was a way to celebrate and honor the gods and ancestors in the trees that were cut down.
Now, the ceremony honors the construction men and women, he said.
The new school will be more than a building. Landers said she was overwhelmed when she looked at the construction site and envisioned the talented, beautiful students who would walk its hallways.
The building is a new vehicle to success, said Kelsey Hale, the senior class president. “There is only room for more success.”
“It’s not just a new building,” said state Rep. Sheila Harrington. The building will bring new attitudes and a better ability to concentrate.
She and Melissa Ahola, a representative from state Sen. Jennifer Flanagan’s office, presented both a national and state flag to the school. The flags that flew over the state house were a gift from Gov. Charlie Baker.
A school is a building with four walls and the future inside it, said Jack McCarthy, paraphrasing a journalist. He is the executive director of the Massachusetts School Building Authority, which will pay over 50 percent of eligible costs of the $89.1 million project.
The current sophomore class will spend their senior year in the new building. Construction began in early summer, 2015.
Following the ceremony inside, the choir accompanied visitors and school officials outside for the installation of a ceremonial beam.
Unlike the topping off beam installed in January, this beam will not be seen when construction is complete. The choir sang while ironworkers lifted a beam decked with flags and an evergreen tree onto the building.
“This event is all about thanking,” said Rob Templeton, chairman of the School Building Committee. “With your outstanding leadership, our success will continue.”
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