Hundreds of alumni, supporters, faculty and students gathered at the new Watertown High School for a presentation of the keys and open house Sunday afternoon.
The presentation of the keys ceremony featured a filled auditorium with Watertown High School supporters, some standing due to limited seating, who were excited to hear about the new school and its features. Speakers included Watertown Mayor Mike Jennings and Wilson County Director of Schools Donna Wright. Other guests included Sen. Mae Beavers and Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto, an alumnus. They reminisced about the history of the school, its supporters who helped make the building of the new high school possible and shared excitement about the opportunities that a new high school would bring. The opening of Watertown High completes the modernization of all the county’s high schools.
Guests who did not attend the ceremony in the auditorium explored the building and connected with family, friends and former classmates. Many thrilled faces and cellphone cameras filled the hallways as people familiarized themselves with the 222,458-square-foot school. Guests struggled with identifying their favorite part of the new building, equipped with a vast more amount of features than the previous high school.
“My favorite part...I don’t know if I can pick a favorite…the gym, the theater, the playing fields the library,” said Paulette Dorris, a 1961 graduate and former teacher, “but I do love the Purple Tiger passage.”
The Purple Tiger passage inside of the main entrance rotunda, reigned as the most popular attraction of the afternoon. It connected former, current and future students with an array of displays showcasing the tradition and history of the school. Alumni from all generations flocked to the Purple Tiger passage bricks to find the inscribed names of their loved ones, graduating class, businesses or organizations. Sponsors purchased the bricks at $100 to generate a college scholarship fund for graduating seniors. For some, the bricks were simply a generous donation or opportunity to be apart of a great cause. However for others, the bricks symbolize and time and place Watertown holds in their hearts.
“I told myself, I had left a mark in this place,” said Mike Kopp, a 1977 graduate who attended Watertown for one full year after moving from Texas.
Kopp said the transition was hard for him at times, and while attending the open house, he felt a connection when he discovered his brick.
“Perhaps no one will remember or care, but to me, leaving a mark – even in the form of a brick – at the stages of my life is important for giving my journey some context,” he said.
Hailee Pritchett, a 2013 graduate, said her favorite part of the new high school is the auditorium, which includes a hardwood floor entrance and ticket stand reminiscent of a movie theater. The new auditorium is a significant increase in size from the auditorium at the old high school.
Maceio Gaines, a 2013 graduate, said the basketball gym was his favorite part of the old high school because of the history and memories he made there. Gaines was a part of the historic 2012-13 boys’ basketball team that advanced to the TSSAA State Tournament for the first time in school history. The new gym amazed him.
The new gymnasium is bigger than the old gym, although the famous lowered locker rooms did not transition over to the new location. An auxiliary gym conjoins the main gym and will feature volleyball games. Purple outlines both of the hardwood floors with a huge “W” in the center of both.
A large atrium is outside of the gymnasium, and could possibly be used as an activity area for physical education courses. The trophies Gaines and his teammates gathered throughout the years, and the awards of countless other Watertown student athletes, are also on display in the area.
Other features of the school include an updated band room, audio/visual studio, library, science labs and greenhouses. The sports fields and tennis courts also received major upgrades and will be the talk of sporting events for the near future. No matter how nice and new the school is, many Watertown supporters point to the feelings that a new high school brings, rather than the physical aspects.
“It really means a lot to me that we got a new high school, because it is well deserved,” said Gaines. “People in Watertown work hard, and it’s good to see a monument as beautiful as this school to show that working hard pays off.”
“It’s satisfying seeing people, such as Mr. Luttrell and Mr. Thompson and the various teachers and coaches, who have made such an impact on a lot of kids in Watertown getting a nice facility that they can be proud of,” said Andrew Jennings, a 2011 Watertown graduate. “It just gives the community as a whole something to be proud of.”
“I am so proud to be from Watertown and so proud of our new school,” said Dorris.
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