LINCOLN – Last Thursday, Oct. 14, the Lincoln School Department celebrated the completion of the Lincoln High School construction and renovation project.

A ribbon-cutting event, which included tours of the improved facilities, marked the culmination of several years of planning and navigating a tumultuous and often trying building project.

The volunteer Building Committee helped steer the project to the finish line, alongside architect SMMA, builder Gilbane and owner’s project manager Colliers International. RGB and ADS Construction were the architect and general contractor for the administrative wing of the school.

“Lincoln has been our home for many years and we’ve seen the town through ups and downs … one of them being the construction of the high school,” said LHS senior and Student Council President Grace Nadeau, who delivered a welcome address from the student body.

When her class entered LHS as freshmen, construction was already started. Over the years, they watched their school undergo major changes, with old spaces being completely renovated, new additions added, and old portions of the school demolished.

“It wasn’t always easy,” she said of learning during construction. She recalled hearing “drills being pushed through the walls” while taking her math midterm.

Still, Nadeau said the senior class is lucky to be able to enjoy the end result, which she said is a “huge improvement over the old building.”

The $60 million project has resulted in 14 new classrooms, four science labs, a 4,000-square-foot media center, a dining commons of the same size and a new kitchen, a 1,100-square-foot fashion room, and a new ‘transitions’ space with fresh appliances.

Additionally, the campus now houses 2,200-square-foot auto and wood shops and a new 1,400-square-foot engineering and robotics area.

Renovations were done on the school’s fitness training room, auditorium, administration and guidance offices, 17 classrooms in the two-story D-wing, locker rooms and gym, the 1996 wing, and four science labs. New furniture and technology was purchased for most of the building, including smart touch projectors.

Nadeau said the changes will allow students to learn in a way that wasn’t possible in the old building.

“I’m excited for the future of LHS,” she said, thanking those who made the project possible.

When Supt. Larry Filippelli came to Lincoln in the summer of 2018, he walked into “a high school that was being dismantled.”

Filippelli said he’s proud of what’s been accomplished since then, noting that “not even a global pandemic could dissuade us from our path.”

He also thanked the supporters of the project, especially the volunteer Building Committee for their tireless support and hundreds of hours of dedication.

“In any construction project the road to completion is never a straight line, and while it is often curved — and it curved along the way with this project — every contribution along the way mattered,” he said. “There are many reasons to celebrate our town and district, but tonight for sure, we can’t hide that Lion pride.”

Town Administrator Phil Gould said he was contemplating the significance of the project completion on his way to the ceremony. The ribbon-cutting marks the completion of a six-year journey, he said, which has resulted in a state-of-the-art school completed during Lincoln’s 150th year of existence. The screen on the wall at LHS projecting the latest Nasdaq activity is a far-cry from the days of the one-room schoolhouse at Chase Farm, he said.

“I was down in the cafeteria looking at the Lincoln Lions logo up on the wall, and in big letters I read the word ‘engagement.’ That is what this project represents, the hard work and teamwork of a lot of people from a lot of different backgrounds,” he said.

The project resulted in a top-notch learning center, while protecting the interests of the taxpayers, he added.

Gov. Dan McKee said it was a thrill to be in Lincoln knowing what taxpayers have accomplished with the help of the Building Committee and local leaders. As the former mayor of Cumberland, he recalled the challenges of retrofitting Cumberland High School during his tenure.

“I can certainly appreciate the students’ patience here,” he said, adding that the town has come a long way from the days it shared a high school with Central Falls. Today, Lincoln has a safe and warm high school complex that the town can be proud of, he said.

“To make this investment in the community is a tremendous opportunity,” he said.

Rhode Island Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green called last Thursday’s event a “joyous occasion” and the result of collaboration.

“We teach our children: if you want to go slow, you go alone. If you want to do things well and fast, you go together. That’s what the town has done,” she said, calling the project a “beacon for our state.”

The renovated school will offer new opportunities for R.I. students to better compete and succeed, she said. “When a community invests in our children, in a state-of-the-art facility like this, it’s not just about a building, it says that we care about our kids. All cities will look at this high school and learn from the commitment you have made to education.”

Town Council President Keith Macksoud echoed the fact that the project was a collaborative effort of elected officials and community members, but mostly by members of the Building Committee, who worked so hard to complete the project to specifications and within budget.

Their efforts resulted in additional savings on the bond, he said. The end result is “another example of why Lincoln is a wonderful place to live, work and raise a family.”

Before attendees broke off for tours of the building and mingled at a reception, Building Committee co-leaderes TJ Russo and Julie Zito took the time to thank the community for their support over the years.

Zito said LHS has been a “passion project” for her that began “the minute the middle school was finished.”

Conversations about renovating LHS began back in 2014. Since then, the Building Committee logged more than 185 meetings, each exceeding two hours.

“Time well-spent,” said Russo, listing off the new amenities the school has to offer.

“Tackling this project was nothing short of climbing a mountain,” she said. “It took years of planning before we even put a shovel in the ground.”

Russo conceded that the Building Committee faced challenges, and was forced to value-engineer certain aspects of the original plan to reappropriate funds elsewhere.

He referenced the character George Bailey from “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

“This business of nickels and dimes and spending all your life trying to figure out how to save three cents on a length of pipe ... I’d go crazy,” he said.

Except, he said, that’s exactly what the Building Committee did.

“I can’t even begin to quantify the number of hours these committee members have spent on this project, scrutinizing change-orders, justifying every request and seeing if things could be bought for less,” he said.

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