From left: John Hodge, Donna Brunette and Bob Lucy cut a ribbon to ceremonially open the new Mt. Ararat High School in Topsham on Sept. 17. (J.W. OLIVER PHOTO)

The Mt. Ararat High School community gathered Friday, Sept. 17 to celebrate the completion of a $60.7 million building project, including a brand-new high school.

Former Mt. Ararat High School Principal Donna Brunette, Maine School Administrative District 75 Building Committee Chair John Hodge and MSAD 75 interim Superintendent Bob Lucy cut a ribbon to ceremonially open the school.

“This ribbon-cutting represents the work of hundreds of volunteers, hundreds of people from Bowdoin, Bowdoinham, Harpswell and Topsham who’ve invested time working on committees to create a new high school with students central to every decision,” Brunette said. “Volunteers have spent countless hours to ensure the school is well constructed; educationally sound, of course; safe and secure; energy efficient; and fully funded.”

“The people in the community make a world of difference and the investment of time, energy and money to build this new school and develop this campus for the children speaks volumes to the MSAD 75 community,” Brunette said.

The school opened for the 2020-21 school year, but officials delayed the celebration due both to the coronavirus pandemic and ongoing construction on campus. The new building played a crucial role in the school’s ability to educate students during the pandemic.

“Given the challenge of the air quality in the old school and the open concept, I don’t believe it would have been possible to host classes in person if we had been in the old building,” Brunette said.

Former Mt. Ararat High School Principal Donna Brunette speaks during the ribbon-cutting ceremony. (J.W. OLIVER PHOTO)

Hodge said the building committee held 81 meetings before its dissolution on Sept. 9, not counting numerous public forums and subcommittee meetings.

“I remember some short 6 1/2 years ago, standing on the soccer field with a shovel in hand, throwing some dirt to get this project started,” Hodge said. “It’s been a long journey.”

The Maine Department of Education approved the construction of the new school in 2014. Construction started in 2018.

The committee members “had one thought and one thought in mind only, and that’s to make sure that every student that steps through these doors over the next 50 years has the opportunity to become the best they can be and live their life to their fullest abilities, and I believe we’ve accomplished that,” Hodge said.

Chris Hoffman, the current principal of Mt. Ararat High School, said the building “is actually the first strictly high school building project this district has ever undertaken.” The old Mt. Ararat High School was built in 1973 as Mt. Ararat School, for students in grades seven through 12.

“There is immense excitement for the beautiful building we now have,” said Hoffman, who graduated from Mt. Ararat High School in 2003.

Mt. Ararat High School Principal Chris Hoffman laughs while welcoming attendees to a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new high school. (J.W. OLIVER PHOTO)

Lucy, the interim superintendent, said that the “state-of-the-art, 21st-century learning environment, equipped with the latest technology, enriches the dynamic and engaging learning opportunities offered by our dedicated and talented educators.”

“The collaboration, perseverance, problem-solving, decision-making and pride in our school community represented by this project reveal the strengths of MSAD 75,” Lucy said, adding that the new school “will make a difference in the lives of our students for years to come.”

The Mt. Ararat High School chamber singers performed the national anthem. After the ceremony, alumni, parents and other community members attended presentations on the building’s sustainability and technology; enjoyed refreshments; and toured the 153,000-square-foot school with student guides. The festivities ended with a football game under the lights on the new turf field.