BELFAST, Maine — Wednesday was the first day of school for a lot of kids in Maine including the high schoolers at Belfast Area High School.
Day 1 was made all the more memorable by what students did not see when their buses pulled up outside the school at 7:30 a.m.
After more than 2 1/2 years, the school's renovation project has been completed.
Students arrived at school Wednesday to see a new entryway, new classrooms, lockers rooms, and an upgraded cafeteria.
"I definitely noticed the [renovations] out front with the new awning and the new rug," said incoming Junior, Reilly Nickerson. "It makes our school look better and neater."
"The new awning outside and the rugs and the new wing that we have looks really nice," said incoming Junior, Sophia Fay. "The math wing feels more comfortable to be in class."
[There's] "a bunch of new painting, these pillars, and the new stairs," said incoming Junior, Kiara Doolan. "It's a lot nicer."
It was all made possible due to $7.5 million dollars from the district's taxpayers.
Construction had been ongoing since 2017.
"I think it looks much better," added Fay. "It's noticeable."
"I think it makes a lot of kids want to go to school more," added Doolan.
"It's the first thing you see when you come here," said the high school's principal, Jeff Lovejoy.
The upgrades made a large part of the school barely recognizable to him even though he's also a graduate!
"The funny nostalgia of what the school looked like, myself included, coming back and seeing the new addition to the fine arts wing and now with a new math and special education wing, there's definitely a sense of pride and just ownership for the community to have such a beautiful building," said Lovejoy.
He hopes the new renovations help with retention.
"We're competing right now," said Lovejoy. "We want to retain teachers and students."
He realizes that getting students to come to school on the first day is one thing and getting them to keep coming is another.
"Attendance is paramount," added Lovejoy. "We want students to be here and want to be here so starting with a facility that's inviting, state-of-the-art, clean, bright, those are all things that went into the design."
"I think that they made the school better so people would want to come to school and work hard so take advantage of that and do so," said Nickerson.
Now that these school renovations are complete, school officials will begin looking into some of the facility's landscaping and upgrade the press box and scoreboard at the athletics field.