By Joey Cresta
August 29, 2012 2:00 AM
PORTSMOUTH — School Board members and school administrators have long raved about the new addition to Portsmouth Middle School, but the toughest critics — the students — finally arrived Tuesday to assess the new facility.
“It’s clean and it’s orderly, and neat,” said eighth-grader Ashley Cooper, 13. “I’m already loving it.”
Returning seventh- and eighth-graders at Portsmouth Middle School still have nightmarish memories of last year, which they spent in a crumbling and decaying building. Students described it as a cave, with little natural light and very few colors to please the eye. It was “dusty, dirty and dingy,” said eighth-grader Oscar Kozikowski, 13.
“And there’s not a weird smell,” he added. “It’s all brand new.”
The students raved about the abundance of natural light in both classrooms and hallways; the wider stairways that reduce traffic and minimize students bumping into one another; and the new, pristine furniture that is much more comfortable than the chairs and desks of old.
Samantha Appelbaum, a 12-year-old seventh-grader, said she believes the renovations are going to improve education for the students. She said that there are more helpful tools at their disposal than ever before and that parents and taxpayers should know “it was so worth it” to agree to the $37.5 million renovation project.
Even the ongoing construction work does not detract from how amazing the new building is, the students said.
“We really don’t notice it. At least, I don’t,” said Jack Durkin, 13, an eighth-grader this year.
The students pointed out that, last year, the school was falling apart and no one seemed to take care of it. They said they want the school to feel new for a long time and will be sure to treat it with respect.
“It’s everybody’s. You don’t want somebody else to ruin it,” Kozikowski said.
Peter Ruel, a seventh-grade science teacher, listened to the students’ comments and said he was glad to hear they are taking a vested interest in maintaining the school’s pristine appearance.
He said teachers will always find a way to make things work, but it was clear last year that the school was on its last legs.
“Like the kids were saying, it was old and beat,” he said. “It went downhill very quickly.”
The next phase of construction has already begun. Sixth-graders are starting the year in the 1975 wing, which will be torn down once the 1930 portion of the school is completely renovated.