By CAROL ROBIDOUX
Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – Listen closely. That back-to-school buzz around Pinkerton Academy's campus is actually the whirring of construction equipment and buzzing of saws – the finale to a short list of summer maintenance projects that are now coinciding with the beginning of another school year.
“We've been practicing a lot,” said senior Emily Bell, making her way yesterday to the soccer practice field for team tryouts with junior Morgan Angle and sophomore Sam Breslin. The three friends were toting water bottles even though the weather was actually not as hot as it could have been for midday drills.
The soccer practice field overlooks the site of the Freshman Academy, which is beginning to take shape, with a constant convoy of construction vehicles circling the site. It's on target to open its doors next fall, said Robin Perrin, of the school's alumni office.
“It's about 20 percent complete,” said Perrin, who was running administrative errands by way of several detours around campus yesterday, avoiding several taped off areas including a roof replacement on the Shepard Building and some internal upkeep at the alumni office, where he usually works.
“We lost some shingles from the Shepard Building roof in a wind storm, and had someone come out to take a look. They determined that the insulation was only about two inches thick, and the shingles were right on top. It's a pretty ambitious undertaking, but they're taking off the entire roof and replacing it with this,” said Perrin, pointing toward skids loaded with blocks of thick foam insulation that will render the building more energy efficient this winter. He said the job was supposed to be completed within two weeks, which happens to be the first day of classes for incoming freshman.
“That's weather permitting – they actually started last week, and we've had some rain – they are talking about more this afternoon. We've got our fingers crossed,” Perrin said.
|Paul Jean, Pinkerton Academy’s Building and Grounds|
supervisor, cuts down a weathered pine.
Just beyond his view a lone figure clings to the top of a pine tree, stripped bare of its branches by the buzz saw toting figure, Paul Jean, the school's head of Building and Grounds.
Two tall pine trees in the courtyard next to the Low Building were leaning to one side. Given their shallow roots, it was time to down them, said Paul, who had started at the top and was making his way down, severing branches and slicing chunks of pine tree as he made his descent.
Around the corner a constant line of foot traffic entered and exited a doorway near the cafeteria next to a hand-printed sign welcoming seniors for their official yearbook portraits. Photographers from BKM Photo were dispatched around the campus to take scenic photos of the incoming senior class, a switch from the usual in-studio portraits, said Perrin.
“We think this will be much nicer for students – and really, getting them all into the studio was getting kind of hectic,” Perrin said.
Photographer Steve Bedell was working with George Vasconcellos, trying to coax a bigger smile from the reluctant senior. Vasconcellos got through the moment looking pleased, but never ecstatic about the prospect of his final year of high school.
|Photographer Steve Bedell works for a smile from senior George Vasconcellos.|
“I just don't show my teeth,” said Vasconcellos, only a little apologetic after the shoot.
The August 20 Freshman Orientation Day features early morning tours of the sprawling campus for interested parents at 7:30 and 8:30 a.m.. The size of the campus often leaves incoming ninth-graders a little first-day forlorn, said Perrin. Tours help parents grasp the layout of the campus and its many buildings. A parent night will follow at 6:30 p.m. in the Stockbridge Theatre, giving parents an opportunity to meet administrators and ask questions. There will be an evening tour of the campus at 5:30 p.m. for those who can't make the morning tours, said Perrin.
Also new this year, Pinkerton is joining several other school districts in tightening up its dress code this year and reinforcing the list of what not to wear: flip flops and athletic slides; no sleeveless shirts, tops or dresses; skirts and shorts knee-length or longer. Pants and shorts must be worn at the waistline rather than hanging low, as has been a popular style among teens.
“We feel it's important, not only for teachers to have a professional look, but for students to dress appropriately as well,” Perrin said. “It's gotten tougher over the years as fashion – especially for girls – has succumbed to what we call the Britney Spears Effect,” Perrin said.
The first day of school for all students is August 31.