The old Mt. Ararat High School in Topsham is being torn down to make room for a new athletic field as part of the new high school project. Darcie Moore / The Times Record

TOPSHAM — A brand new Mt. Ararat High School opened for the first time to students Tuesday, but some teachers expressed bittersweet memories about its predecessor, which is now being demolished.

Contractors are tearing down the old building to make way for a track and competition field that soon will be constructed as part of a new high school project.

The old Mt. Ararat High School opened in 1973 to students from Bowdoin, Bowdoinham, Harpswell and Topsham. Built with an open-room concept, Mt. Ararat High School was known as “the school without walls.”

Linda Libby taught at that school for decades before retiring, but went on to substitute teach.

The first two weeks of training before the start of school at the old Mt. Ararat didn’t train teachers how to teach in an open-room school, Libby said. There were a lot of distractions and many learning spaces didn’t  have windows, she said.

Libby said she is excited for the teachers at the new building, who will have enclosed classrooms and windows.

Still, she has cried when seeing photos of the building coming down.

“It’s the ideas and the people and the kids,” she said, “all these wonderful experiences that working in that building as a teacher and then as a sub has meant to me.”

Dennis Edmondson attended Mt. Ararat High School as a student when it opened for four years, graduating in 1977. By the time he returned to the school to teach history in 1984, the school had installed walls throughout the buildings. Many rooms still didn’t have walls on all four sides.

As a student, Edmondson said when a teacher showed a film, students in nearby lessons gravitated toward the film, and teachers threw up their hands.

“It was an experiment, the whole building,” he said Tuesday.

Seeing the building being torn down didn’t affect him as much as he expected, Edmondson said. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the school wasn’t able to celebrate the school before its demolition. Right now, there are bigger fish to fry, he said.

What Edmondson has is a lot of memories. High school students in the towns of MSAD 75 had been farmed out to other school systems including Brunswick, Edmondson said, before Mt. Ararat High School was built.

“The fact was that it was our school,” Edmondson said. “It was our place.”

Principal Donna Brunette said she anticipates the old high school building will be completely demolished by sometime in October.

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