Orange celebrates ‘extraordinary’ new Fisher Hill Elementary School

Government officials gather at the Fisher Hill Elementary School ribbon-cutting ceremony on Saturday.

Government officials gather at the Fisher Hill Elementary School ribbon-cutting ceremony on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/BELLA LEVAVI

Government officials cut the ribbon to symbolize the opening of the new Fisher Hill Elementary School.

Government officials cut the ribbon to symbolize the opening of the new Fisher Hill Elementary School. STAFF PHOTO/BELLA LEVAVI

Angelique Connolly, 10, and Maverick Lawton, 10, attend Saturday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony for Fisher Hill Elementary School.

Angelique Connolly, 10, and Maverick Lawton, 10, attend Saturday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony for Fisher Hill Elementary School. STAFF PHOTO/BELLA LEVAVI

Fisher Hill Elementary School student Bentley Sanchez reads a poem at the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Saturday.

Fisher Hill Elementary School student Bentley Sanchez reads a poem at the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/BELLA LEVAVI

Mallory Ellis with her children Julian, 4, Maverick, 10 months, and Liam, 10, at Saturday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony at Fisher Hill Elementary School.

Mallory Ellis with her children Julian, 4, Maverick, 10 months, and Liam, 10, at Saturday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony at Fisher Hill Elementary School. STAFF PHOTO/BELLA LEVAVI

Fisher Hill Elementary School students celebrate at Saturday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Fisher Hill Elementary School students celebrate at Saturday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony. STAFF PHOTO/BELLA LEVAVI

Students in the Fisher Hill Elementary School chorus sing at the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Saturday.

Students in the Fisher Hill Elementary School chorus sing at the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/BELLA LEVAVI

Frosting-covered Fisher Hill Elementary School students Kenneth Gowey, 7, and Harper Gowey, 4.

Frosting-covered Fisher Hill Elementary School students Kenneth Gowey, 7, and Harper Gowey, 4. STAFF PHOTO/BELLA LEVAVI

By BELLA LEVAVI

Staff Writer

Published: 11-20-2023 3:18 PM

ORANGE — With speeches, poems and songs, the community gathered at Fisher Hill Elementary School on Saturday for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the opening of the new building and the learning that will happen within its walls.

“As we cut this ribbon in the beautiful Fisher Hill Elementary School,” Vice Principal Paul Fraleigh said, “I know the Fisher Hill teachers and staff feel very privileged to help the students learn and grow in our extraordinary new school.”

The celebration centered around the hard work that went into making the new building a reality, and gave thanks to the town for its contribution in funding roughly half of the total $45 million project.

Students in Orange have slowly moved into the newly expanded 97,000-square-foot Fisher Hill building since the beginning of 2023, with all students settled in at the start of this academic year.

The expanded building at 59 Dexter St. replaced Dexter Park Innovation School and now holds all Orange students from preschool through sixth grade. Dexter Park, which served students in grades four through six, was designated in the lowest rating by the Massachusetts School Building Authority, a quasi-independent government authority. Voters approved funding a feasibility study in 2018 to study the Dexter Park issue and come up with options to repair or replace it.

In 2020, residents voted to ratify a Proposition 2½ debt-exclusion override they had passed the previous week at Town Meeting to start the Fisher Hill addition and renovations. The project cost $45 million, with Orange on the hook for roughly $22 million.

“A town is defined by its boundaries, but a community is defined by our actions,” Bruce Scherer, chair of the Orange School Building Committee, said in his speech at the celebration. “Getting approval at Town Meeting and a ballot vote, though daunting, were strongly supported.”

According to Fraleigh, students love the new building with its multiple playgrounds, what he describes as the most impressive elementary school gymnasium in western Massachusetts, and a cafetorium (cafeteria/auditorium). The building was designed by architect Gene Raymond of Raymond Design Associates (RDA).

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“The design takes full advantage of the beauty of the campus, and is a safe and inviting school,” Scherer said. “The campus itself is an educational component. Our students are immersed in the natural world and have the opportunity to not just learn about it, but directly experience it.”

Fraleigh noted that the building is perfect for all the “simple things” that happen in school. Examples he used were gathering in circles at morning meetings, reading and writing across the classroom, experiencing small-group instruction in learning spaces outside of the classroom, and researching and exploring through state-of-the-art technology.

“Fisher Hill is a place where friendships are formed, learning is lasting and school is an extension of family,” Fraleigh said. “The Fisher Hill community and I would like to thank you all for making the extraordinary and ordinary happen in our beautiful new school.”

Reach Bella Levavi at 413-930-4579
or blevavi@recorder.com.