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Renovation, construction begins at South Portland High School

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Renovation, construction begins at South Portland High School

SOUTH PORTLAND — Shovels hit the ground Monday to mark the beginning of a $41.5 million construction and renovation project at South Portland High School. 

"This is a pretty big moment for Riot pride," School Board Chairman Tappan Fitzgerald said. 

Fittzgerald, Mayor Patti Smith and two high school students, Gabriella Ferrell and Morrigan Turner, addressed a crowd of about 100 Monday evening for the groundbreaking.

The ceremony marks the beginning of a construction process expected to last more than two years. The school will grow by 50 percent, from about 200,000 square feet to 300,000 square feet. New features include an internal courtyard, a renovated Beal Gym and South Portland Auditorium, and construction of a new dining hall/kitchen facility and lecture hall.

The school will also be energy efficient and feature a natural gas heating and cooling system.

At Monday's ceremony, 10 teams representing South Portland students and the architecture and construction firms hired for the renovations took hold of shovels and ceremonially threw shovelfuls of dirt. 

Construction will start in earnest next week, according to Joe Picoraro, project executive for the lead contractor, PC Construction. Picoraro said the first phase will include the new kitchen/dining facility, which will be built on the current site of the school's tennis courts. 

Picoraro said he was impressed by the showing at the groundbreaking ceremony.

"This was very nice," he said. "I really took pride in all the students."

Turner, 14, was on a subcommittee for interior design decisions of the renovation plan. Ferrell, 15, also was on that committee, as well as the top-level SPHS Building Committee, which oversaw project planning.

The girls talked about spending long nights with the committee, hashing out details as varied as floor plans and the acoustic-enhancing fabric for the walls of the new lecture hall. Both were ecstatic about having been involved in the process.

"I hear my name might even be on a plaque," Ferrell said. "I'm really excited about all of this."

The project is at least five years years in the making. A $56 million bond referendum for renovation failed in 2007.

Richard Rottkov, a SPHS employee and member of "Renew SPHS," a group that formed to support the 2010 referendum for the school construction, said it's a relief to finally have it under way.

"It's like being a Red Sox fan who never thought they'd see the World Series," he said. 

Mario Moretto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or mmoretto@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @riocarmine.