For the future leaders

Bensalem High celebrates the completion of its $80 million project with a special rededication ceremony

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

It certainly didn’t feel like September on Saturday, Sept. 16, in Bensalem Township. But the locals weren’t about to let a little humidity (and a lot of sweat) stop them from attending a momentous occasion. After three years of planning and renovations, the $80 million project of enhancing Bensalem High School is officially complete. In a special rededication and ribbon-cutting ceremony, current students, alumni, faculty and community members came together to celebrate and tour the new space.

A strong foundation: On Sept. 16, Bensalem High School hosted a special rededication and ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the completion of the three year, $80 million project of enhancing the school’s educational and recreational programs and facilities. SAMANTHA BAMBINO / TIMES PHOTO

In true BHS spirit, the school’s energetic pep band serenaded guests as they trickled in from the parking lot while the cheerleaders passed out programs, thanking each person they approached for attending. At 11 a.m., Bensalem School District Superintendent Samuel Lee stepped up to the podium, which was decorated with blue and white balloons.

According to Lee, the $80 million investment is meant to inspire creativity and collaboration in an updated space that’s comparable to many colleges and universities. So far, 93 classes have commenced from Bensalem High School, and as it transitions into modern times with its programs and technology, Lee hopes the success of the school’s graduates continues for many years to come.

Usually, schools try to do any needed renovations over summer break, but it would’ve been an impossible feat to squeeze this project into a three-month time span. Overall, the school’s transformation took three years and was broken up into six phases…all while class was in session. Thanks to the architects at EI Associates and the patience and flexibility of the students and staff, things still managed to run smoothly.

“This project was done on time and on budget in an occupied building,” Lee said proudly.

Experiencing everything firsthand was senior class president Ezinwa Osuoha, who told the crowd of her experience.

“The inevitable chaos was kept to a minimum,” she said.

For her, any slight inconveniences were worth it for the resources she can now take advantage of. In addition to a lounge area for studying and group projects, a gymnasium, pool and state-of-the-art auditorium with a stunning view from any seat, Osuoha has been enjoying the completely renovated cafeteria, which comes complete with an improved lunch menu. According to her, Bensalem High School students will no longer understand the meaning of the phrase “bad school lunch.”

Though there were many additions to the recreational and social aspects of the school, there was no shortage of educational improvements as well. Principal Bill Ferrara explained how the desks in each classroom are arranged in a particular way to inspire a collaborative atmosphere. There is also a brand new STEM facility, which he described as “second to none.” Beaming with pride, Ferrara reminisced on the last three years.

“They had to go down these cattle shoots of hallways,” he said of the students. “Eighteen-hundred people were moved at various stages, but there was not one problem.”

Though the school district was questioned many times on the reasoning behind spending so much money, it stuck by its mission of bringing the school to the forefront of modern technology and teaching methods, all for the sake of the students.

“There’s nothing more important than working every day with the future leaders of our township,” Ferrara said.

Joining in the celebration was Mayor Joseph DiGirolamo, who praised the teams of people who worked tirelessly to complete the project in a timely manner.

“Two years ago, I didn’t think it would get done,” he admitted.

But when a community comes together for a common cause, anything is possible. According to DiGirolamo, Bensalem High School was recently ranked №47 in the country by Money magazine, and he hopes these improvements will allow it to climb even higher.

“We are educating our children for the future here,” he said.

Also present were state Rep. Gene DiGirolamo, state Sen. Robert “Tommy” Tomlinson and U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, who had the pleasure of guest speaking during one of the school’s government classes. Fitzpatrick was amazed at the sophisticated questions the students asked him about foreign policy and other important topics.

“Bensalem High School is doing something right,” he said.

After the audience joined in singing the school’s alma mater, Lee and the other school administrators gathered together to cut the ribbon.

“The entire Bensalem Township community — this is your school,” Lee said.

As one, the crowd flooded through the doors in an effort to see all of the new features and cool off in the air conditioning. Slices of cake were served in the cafeteria as the school’s orchestra performed in the main hallway for guests, who were able to explore the school at their leisure.

Just a few short weeks ago, the walls were scraped down to the wood beneath as duct tape lined the windows. Now, the bright hallways of Bensalem High School are ready to welcome the next generation of Owls. ••

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com