Capital School District Superintendent Dr. Michael Thomas has said all along that the new Dover High School would be the new face of the school district and, therefore, a new source of pride for the community.
That fact was not lost on the students who attended Capital's beam signing ceremony held Wednesday morning on the grounds of the new Dover High School off Del. Route 8. They included Dover High Student Council sophomore members who would be the first class to graduate from the new school in 2015 and who were aware of their school's unfair reputation.
"Looking at the new school, it's exciting to think that we're going to be seniors because it'll be just so different going to school everyday," Dover High sophomore class president Gabrielle Bennetti said. "We won't be criticized as much."
"I think we're going to get more people attend the school just because it'll have a better rep," sophomore class vice president Taylor Tucker said.
"And we can brag that we have a new high school and you don't," sophomore class treasurer Jasmine Urban said.
The school under construction has taken on a recognizable shape based on architectural drawings and has remained on schedule to open in autumn 2014, according to construction manager EDiS officials.
With the new school in the backdrop, Thomas asked how many of those attending the beam signing were Dover High alumni. About half of the audience of roughly 250 raised their hands.
"A whole lot," Thomas said. "It wouldn't be right if we didn't have your names on this beam. You have to understand that. "
As part of the logistics of the beam signing, great effort was taken to deliver smaller beams to each Capital school on Oct. 16 and those beams were delivered to the high school Tuesday alongside the larger beams, Thomas said. He anticipated between 8,000 and 9,000 signatures would be collected by 5 p.m. Wednesday.
Half a dozen Central Middle School seventh-graders, who would be the first class to attend the new Dover High for all four years, led the beam signing crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance. Dover High Air Force Junior ROTC sophomores Dillon Beasley, Connor Simek, Hallee Mclain and Hunter Lott conducted the presentation of the colors and the Dover High select ensemble performed a rendition of "The Star Spangled banner."
The ROTC students will also be among the first seniors to attend the new Dover High.
"We're just sitting at the bottom of the chain right now and when we get here we're top dogs," Mclain said, referring to her underclassman status at the present.
"It is going to be good to be the top dogs in the school, but we're going to be as lost as the freshmen," Beasley said, keeping things in perspective.
Central Middle Associate Principal David Thomas, a 1987 graduate of Dover High, brought the Central students to the beam signing. He also brought his children, William Henry fifth grader Sarah Larose and Fairview fourth grader Owen Thomas to the beam signing as future Dover High students.
"It's amazing the buzz that's going on in the district now with the recent success that we've had with our academic growth in making [state targets], seeing the new school and the renovations to the other schools," he said. "Being from the community, it truly means a lot to everyone that's involved, especially those of us with deep roots in the community."
Central seventh graders Jonathan Kuntzi, Dion Baker, Brabnesha Kearse, Sherri Jackson and Jessica Yerger said being among the first students at the new Dover High would be fun.
"It'll be brand new, with a new football field and all new athletic equipment," Kuntzi said.
"I think it's going to be an excellent school," Yerger said.
Dignitaries attending the beam signing included Capital Board of Education President Kay Dietz-Sass, Vice President Phillip Martino and Dr. Raymond Paylor; former board members Kiran Clements and Doug Van Sant; Dover Mayor Carleton Carey Sr., City Manager Scott Koenig and Director of Planning & Community Development Ann Marie Townshend and Kent County Levy Court Commissioners Allan Angel (a former school board member) and Terry Pepper and County Administrator Mike Petit de Mange.
Several representatives from construction manager EDiS, including Vice President Bradley Cowen, and ABHA Architects, including lead architect Carl Krienen, were also on hand.