Community celebrates completion of NWL high school renovations
There was cause for celebration Nov. 8 when community members gathered for the Northwestern Lehigh High School dedication, signaling the end of the last phase of renovations which began a year and half ago.
Visitors entered the building through a spacious and airy lobby and were invited to wander the halls and visit teachers during the open house.
The high point of the evening was the ribbon-cutting ceremony that officially ushered in a new era for the high school.
“It was an honor to be cutting the ribbon for the school I love,” said Nolan Hernandez, president of the Class of 2019.
“In a way, I got to finalize the work members of my family started.”
Hernandez’s father is Todd Hernandez, school board vice president.
His grandfather, school board President Willard Dellicker addressed the crowd in the auditorium before the ribbon cutting.
“Well, they said it couldn’t be done,” Dellicker said.
Though he acknowledged “it was a rocky start,” he said, “One vote made a difference and what started out to be a renovation, turned into a much-needed modernization project.”
“Beautiful new lobbies, new lighting and acoustics will enhance our arts and performances here for many years,” Dellicker said, noting the improved efficiency with modern spaces and convenient areas. “Safety and security are provided with visibility and controlled access with security cameras,”
He stressed the resolution that powered the project.
“If we’re going to do it, let’s do it right,” he said.
Dellicker lauded retired Superintendent Dr. Mary Anne Wright for “providing leadership throughout the hurdles” and praised high school Principal Aileen Yadush as a “facility director who helped deliver the work on time and under budget.”
He extended his thanks “to all of the staff and students who were inconvenienced for a year and a half and the current board members” for their support.
Northwestern Lehigh Superintendent Jennifer Holman and Assistant Principal Don Allen also offered comments.
“Our goal was to increase security and efficiency and provide an improved learning facility,” Holman said.
“Throughout, students were the focus.
“This is a day of hope for the future, interwoven with memories of older days. This is our school and we’re ready for the future.
Holman also noted Northwestern is always at the forefront of education.
Allen discussed the security aspect of the renovations.
“I think it’s fantastic,” Allen said. “It was definitely necessary. We had three different heating systems in operation but now everything is coordinated and long overdue.”
“The security factors are so much better. The aesthetics of the project are great but the real meat and potatoes is that we can see people coming in and out of the building.”
“If a place looks good, the students treat it well,” Allen said. “They’ve taken pride in the building. It’s functional.”
His predecessor, Ken Fisher agreed.
“I like how the offices are right up front,” he said. “Visitors can come in and never have to enter the building.”
Guidance counselor Erica Gross said the large-group instruction area is an important addition.
“We use it for a variety of things like testing and presentations, so many things,” she said. “It’s a large space with movable tables and chairs. The renovations are a huge improvement.”
Yadush couldn’t agree more.
“Our new LGI room allows us as a staff to meet together for professional development purposes in an environment where we can put tables together for collaboration, view large screens and receive and share information as a large group for the purpose of making things better for our students,” she said.
Students also love the look of the renovated building.
“I was really surprised with how modern it looks,” freshman Jocelyn Bernhard said.
“I just really like the entrance,” said her sister Roselyn. “It’s really open and inviting.”
The evening was also an opportunity for the community to look back in time.
“When I was here, this was a junior senior high school,” recalled Dr. Curtis Dietrich, superintendent of the North Penn School District in his remarks.
“In 10th grade, I participated in a ground breaking ceremony. We got a new science wing, new library, new cafeteria, new gym and a new auditorium,” Dietrich said. “That was a big deal to us.”
Dietrich shared many memories of his days as a student in 1977, recalling “a big hex sign” and paying homage to teachers he had when he “was a student representative to the school board.”
Names such as Nagle, Seng, Fisher, Demaree, Baer, Knerr, Molchan, Phillips and Achenbach reminded many of the alumni in the audience of an earlier day.
“They had a tremendous impact on me and I owe them a debt of gratitude,” Dietrich said.
Holman summarized the work that was done.
“We spent a remarkable year and a half preparing,” she said. “Tonight, we celebrate the new spaces designed for future success.”
Aubrey and Jeff Miller, both Northwestern alums, joined the appreciative crowd in the auditorium.
“I noticed there are no lockers in the main hall,” Aubrey Miller said. “It’s so spacious. It’s great.”
Many other alumni returned to view the changes to the high school they remembered, taking the opportunity to visit with teachers they had as students.
“I had a lot of visitors. They came out of their way to visit,” special education teacher Theresa Leverence said. “Kids walked in I would never think would have come in.”
“It was a good evening,” said John Achenbach, who taught World Cultures from 1963-93.
“I enjoyed seeing so many students. When I had them in class, they were 16 and 17 years old,” he said.
“We received a lot of positive feedback on social media,” Yadush said. “I even received some personal calls and text messages from community members and old friends on how much they enjoyed the evening and how nice it was to be able to come back and see their old school and visit with old friends and teachers.”
A time capsule was unearthed, and the contents was shared with the audience.
“It was pretty cool,” Hernandez said. “It wasn’t that long ago, but seeing how things changed was cool. I love that tradition.”
Hernandez, Will Dellicker and Chris Hippensteel shared the contents with the audience.
There was a joint school agreement from 1953, a program from the first commencement dated 1895, an aerial photo showing the high school and a letter from President Dwight D. Eisenhower dated 1955.
A new time capsule, to represent current times, will hold a 2017-18 yearbook, a picture of the faculty and staff and seniors, a program of studies booklet, the logo printed in STEAM lab, a tiger paw made on a 3D printer, and a fidget spinner.
In her welcoming remarks, Yadush said the first phase of the renovations happened 18 years ago.
“Just about the time our seniors were born,” she noted. “The many visitors who had on alumni badges made me realize this was truly an NWL community event, where both old and new friends, and colleagues could gather and celebrate together.”