Sept. 12, 2017 -- The community came together in spectacular fashion for the grand opening of Heights High School on Sunday, September 10. More than 4,000 people toured the newly-renovated building, and their reactions were overwhelmingly positive.
Beautiful, amazing, fantastic, incredible were heard time and again as alumni, parents, students and community members wandered the halls, poking their heads into classrooms, marveling at the sports facilities, and enjoying the celebration of an impressive community asset.
“Two thumbs up,” said Bruce Tyler, a 1974 graduate and father of a district 8th grader. “All the way through.” His favorite spaces were the science rooms. “And the microscopes. I know a thing or two about microscopes,” joked the cytogenetics technologist at University Hospitals.
Other people were impressed by the music spaces, the competition gym and swimming pool, and the career and technical education offerings.
“All the things they offer, like pharmacology and physical therapy…it’s insane!” said 1994 graduate Cary Gernstetter. “I wish they had offered all that stuff when I was in school. They have so many career-oriented options.”
Many graduates wished that they had had the chance to be students in this building. “I feel cheated,” joked 1991 grad Leroy Daugherty who was touring with his wife Kelly Bullock Daugherty, class of 1990, and their three children. “I wanted my high school to look like this.” He quickly added that he loved Heights when he went there.
The most common refrain from graduates was how unrecognizable the building was. “I think it’s really great,” said Henry Hammond, class of 2012. “But I don’t even feel like I’m in the same building. I keep looking for familiar sites like the street out the windows so I can figure out where I am.”
The Grand Opening required the work of many, from the communications department and the Heights Schools Foundation hosting the event, to members of the Vocal Music Department who performed for visitors, to the two dozen teachers who volunteered to open their classrooms and share all that their students are learning. Student and adult volunteers were stationed at key points throughout the building to provide tour-goers with historical context.
Kara and John Schellenberg were appropriately impressed with the building’s transformation and hope for more opportunities for the community to visit. Their two sons are both Heights alumni, including 2015 graduate Andrew who finished his high school career in the temporary space at Wiley.
“He knew he was making that sacrifice for the good of others,” said his father.
The next generation of students certainly appreciates it. Heights Middle School 7th grader Lola Chicotel was so excited by the space that she could barely contain herself. “It’s awesome! Sure, it’s huge and confusing. But it’s crazy that we get to go here. Crazy in a good way!”
The afternoon was a reunion of sorts for many, with squeals of delight and giant bear hugs as old friends appeared in the no-longer-familiar hallways.
Pauline George made the trip from her home in Michigan and toured the space with Edna Carlisle, a friend she’d met at Taylor Elementary School in the late 1960s. The two women, both members of the class of 1981, were overwhelmed with pride and emotion, both about the physical building but also about the meaning it holds.
“A Heights education is a true gift,” added Carlisle. “It allows you to go out into the world and interact with all different kinds of people, and you know you can connect with them because you knew people like that in your own high school.”
The two were joined by a niece and her childhood friend, who had brought along their own children. Multiple generations of Heights families who can call that building home.
“There’s so much love here,” said Carlisle.
“This is so much more than just a high school,” said George. “It’s a community.”