It has been five decades since the original all-white Chapel Hill High School on Franklin Street merged with the all-black Lincoln High School as part of the town’s desegregation efforts during the mid-1960s.The result was the creation of the new Chapel Hill High School in 1966.
On Tuesday morning, CHHS celebrated the beginning of its renovations with an outdoor groundbreaking ceremony in the school courtyard with gold shovels.
The ceremony began with a series of community speakers, each giving a brief two-minute speech.
County Commissioner Mark Dorosin expressed his enthusiasm for renovations finally taking place at Chapel Hill High School.
“This is a product of a truly collaborative effort from the county, the school district, the town and of course, the residents," Dorosin said in his speech. "So we’re very excited about what we’re about to do."
Assistant Superintendent Todd LoFrese said that the capacity of the high school will increase by 105 students once the renovations are substantially complete in late fall of 2020. The existing auditorium and gymnasium buildings will be connected by a new academic building to form a single facility.
The current auditorium and gymnasium buildings will be brought up to current standards and renovated to have all new heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. This is good news to history teacher Bill Melega, who said that he was most looking forward to having a working air conditioner in his classroom.
Additional renovations will be made to make the flow of traffic easier.
“Currently all the traffic, parent drop-off, buses, staff, walkers and bikers all have to access campus using High School Road," LoFrese said. "What we’re trying to do is to separate the traffic from each other."
According to LoFrese, means of separating the traffic will include creating a dedicated entrance for student parking as well as a separate bus loop. There will also be a new driveway off of Seawell School Road with sufficient queuing space for parent drop-off in order to prevent traffic backup.
Amid the excitement, one notable alumnus David Mason Jr. from Lincoln High School offered a unique perspective on what the renovations could mean for the community of Chapel Hill.
“I want to see the community get together so that we can resolve some of the long-stirring issues that we have had at Chapel Hill High," Mason said.
Mason attended Lincoln High School in the 1960s. He and seven of his friends participated in the first sit-in in Chapel Hill at Colonial Drug in 1960. He noted that problems persisting in high schools in the past were similar to those in the present.
“There is a tremendous divide when it comes to the academic success of Black students versus white students," Mason said. "That’s my number one concern. As long as you have two groups or more who have a common goal and are willing to come together and synergize, we could come up with all kinds of solutions."