Wellesley students walked into their sparkling new $115 million high school for the first time yesterday, as three graduates from more than 70 years ago turned out the lights in the old building’s dusty gym.
Teachers and alumni lined the pathway from the 1938 building to the new facility that was finished six months ahead of schedule and under budget. The first to enter were four students - one from each class, picked by lottery - followed by the entire senior class and then the rest of the student body.
“The school is terrific. It’s beautiful,’’ said Bruno Burgatti, an alumnus who graduated in 1940. Asked to recall his first day at the old high school, he said, “It’s all a blur now. I’m remembering this one.’’
The morning was filled with speeches and songs, including “America the Beautiful,’’ the lyrics of which were penned by Wellesley resident Katharine Lee Bates.
However, the day was also tinged with sorrow as students and faculty honored Wellesley High freshman Hannah Randolph, 15, who was killed Feb. 19 in a skiing accident in Colorado.
About 200 students from the school’s five singing groups - including the Concert Choir, of which Randolph was a member - sang “For Good’’ from “Wicked.’’ It was the last song she sang with the choir before vacation.
“The loss of such a bright light in a world so full of darkness seems the cruelest of blows,’’ said Andrew Keough, the school’s principal. “She was a quiet, humble person who shaped hundreds of lives. . . . Hannah mattered and she will be missed.’’
After the ceremonies, students explored their new school, finding their lockers and visiting classrooms, which teachers had set up the previous day.
“I love it. It’s even better than I thought,’’ said Tyshiana Blount, a junior. “But I’m just scared I’m going to get lost.’’
The new school was built on the old school’s parking lot, and the old building will be demolished over the next several months to make way for parking for the new facility.
Tours for the public will start next month, with neighbors who have lived through the construction project being the first invited in, followed by Town Meeting members. Tours will continue in April and in May, when community celebrations and formal dedications will take place.
Superintendent Bella Wong surprised students with a traditional Chinese lion dance performed by members of Calvin Chin’s Marshal Arts Academy in the new gym.
Dancers decked out in two giant red and gold lion costumes leaped and shimmied to the pounding of drums as students gasped and cheered.
“It’s a gift from my family to the school,’’ said Wong, who will be stepping down at the end of the school year.
Leaving the old school was bittersweet for some.
“It was home, we grew up in that building since freshman year,’’ said junior La’asia Trusty as she walked the expansive new hallways with a friend.
“I will always miss the old building, it’s a treasure,’’ said English teacher Adam Cluff, a third-generation Wellesley High School graduate whose grandfather taught at the school from 1960-1980.
But, Cluff said, he likes the view from the wide windows of his new classroom, and he brought a piece of the past with which to decorate: a painted portrait of comically solemn past principal Samuel Graves, who was his father’s principal.
“Have to have the feeling of the old,’’ Cluff said, grinning.
The official community dedication of the new school is scheduled for May 19. It will be followed by a weekend of activities including a movie night and the 44th annual Wellesley veterans’ parade, capped by a concert and fireworks at Hunnewell Field.
Evan Allen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.