The public got its first chance to tour the Willcox High School’s new Building 300 during the Dedication and Ribbon Cutting Ceremony on March 18.
Students and teachers moved into the buildings’ 18 classrooms on Feb. 19.
During the March ceremony, WHS Principal Doris Jones thanked all those on the Rebuild Committee, which formed after a fire burned the campus’ main hall Jan. 11, 2011. She also recognized the teachers, some of whom “lost their life’s work in the fire,” for their dedication and flexibility in moving around from classroom to classroom during the years between the fire and the new building.
“Our motto has been ‘everything is subject to change,’” she said, adding, “Both sister schools have pulled together and helped us when we didn’t have space for classes or supplies. And the students at the high school have been outstanding, just taking everything in stride.”
Willcox Schools Superintendent Dr. Richard Rundhaug also thanked Doris Jones, her staff at the high school, and the employees at the other campuses, as well.
“We are blessed with a staff that has worked so hard and so harmoniously,” he said. “And our students are why we made the extra effort – the reason we went through all of this to get this new building. Congratulations and please take care of your new building!”
Board President Debra Ellis told the audience, “I’m from the Class of 1976. I love Willcox and I love standing here in front of this new building to support education and the youth in Willcox.”
Then she read a poem, The Bridge Builder by Will Allen Dromgoole, which describes an old man’s journey across a “chasm, vast and deep and wide, through which was flowing a sullen tide.” The old man made it safely across and then turned around to build a bridge over the chasm. When another traveler asked why he would do this, he responded,
“There followeth after me today
A youth whose feet must pass this way.
This chasm that has been naught to me
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be.
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building the bridge for him.”
Then Ellis told the audience at the dedication, “This community has built a bridge for its youth by working together to build this new high school. May it be the first of many new buildings aimed at educating our youth. May all the students that will now walk these halls find quality education, lasting friendships, enduring character and strong moral values; and after their schooling here is complete, may they go out into the world and build their own bridges for the betterment of all.”
Student Body President Mayra Hernandez thanked the Rebuild Committee, the administration and the community for its hard work in getting the building to come to fruition. “Your hard work paid off,” she said, “and we thank all of those who worked hard for it.”
Then, Paul Holland and Dan Withers approached the podium.
Withers, talking about himself and Holland, who have worked together on the project for almost two years, said, “We’re kind of like Abbott and Costello, Batman and Robin, or Superman and Kryptonite, not sure which one’s the Kryptonite,” and introduced Holland, principal at HDA Architects, who was the first to visualize the building.
“When Building 300 burned, you lost the core of your high school, the place where people gather and learn. It was your main building. Our goal was to restore the core back into the campus, blending the appearance back into the existing campus,while building in technology and future growth,” Holland told the audience.
Holland then presented Jones with a bell and told her, “Every school should have a bell, but it’s not intended to be a backup system for the bell system,” to which Jones concurred and said the bell system was working just fine.”
Withers then began again, “It takes a team effort to build a project like this, as you can imagine. A lot of people came together, everyone here played some part in this. There are people that handle the money, write the bonds, design the facility, inspectors that inspect many aspects along the way, teachers, administrators, and the poor kids who come to school some days and don’t even know where to go. You can blame me, and our guys, but we’ve really tried to coordinate things the best we could. Look at the result, it’s worth it, people come and look at the new building and their eyes get big, you know it was worth it.
“This building will change a lot of lives. It’s a centerpiece for the community as well. You can see it from town and when you drive by. I wanted to thank Richard (Rundhaug) for your support; I’d like to thank the Board for placing your trust in us. It means a lot to us that you would trust us with your money to build this for you all.
“One last thing, we made a promise a while back. We will donate a golf cart to the school to assist in
getting around the campus. With that, thank you very much for the privilege of building your building,” Withers said, and everyone cheered.
Performances during the event included the national anthem by student Breeana Jones; the Orchestra playing ‘Sabre Dance’ by Khachaturian, directed by Margie Looney; the Cowboys Fight Song by the Band, directed by John Chapman, and Cheerleaders, directed by Sheryl Patterson. The Colors were posted by the Willcox FFA.
The ribbon was cut by members of the Rebuild Committee (Phil and Monica Hogue and Dwayne Owen) and alumni of the Class of 1956 (Claire Owen, Bud Flanders and Gwen Bethel).
While touring the building, Claire Owen said, “I joined the school as a senior when I moved here, and I remember my first day, walking down the main hall. I had my FFA jacket on and it said Chandler on it. And Toby Collins’ sister in law and said, ‘Hey, you’re new here, do you know Don Belcher from Chandler?’ And I did. And that was nice to get to know somebody right away........I came in January of my senior year, and met every senior and many underclassmen before I graduated.”
And, Owen added, the new building’s main hall is spaciously designed to allow students to visit and congregate just as they did in the old main hall.