Officials cut the ribbon at Central High School Wednesday. Stephen Igo photo.
WISE — It took several chops with the oversized ceremonial scissors, but the ribbon was cut for the second of Wise County’s two newest high schools on Wednesday.
Another overflow crowd packed into brand new Central High School in Wise for the formal grand opening of the new facility perched above U.S. Route 23 that possesses a breathtaking view of the mountains.
The new Union High School in Big Stone Gap was dedicated Monday in similar fashion before an official count of 1,500 people in attendance.
Central’s ribbon cutting attendance will match if not exceed that, as their 800-seat auditoriums hosted their first ever packed houses and crowds prowled the sparkling, architecturally appealing hallways.
Central Class of 2014 representative Hannah Collins told the throng the new school is “an astonishing building” as she greeted them with: “Warriors, welcome to your new home.”
Central Principal Charles Collins thanked all citizens “who supported” the building of a new high school “through thick and thin ... because it was the right thing to do.”
Wise County School Board member Phillip Bates marveled at the list of state-of-the-art items packed into the facility, built by contractor S.B. Ballard Construction.
Bates praised Collins and Central Assistant Principal David Stanley for being “the glue” that kept students, faculty and staff on target to move into their new surroundings.
“For Central High students, the future is bright,” said Bates.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Bob Adkins said he recalls playing basketball for his high school team on dirt courts in Pound and encountered a hardwood floor for the first time when the team traveled to Wise. That gym still stands and is used by L.F. Addington Middle School in Wise.
The aroma of the spanking new gym in the new school reminded him of those days in 1949. Adkins said “we’ve come a long way” since then.
Steve Ballard, owner of Ballard Construction, referred to the rancor during the heated debate over consolidation and observed that the county’s youth “did a lot better” handling things “than the older folks.”
Wise County Schools Superintendent Jeff Perry said the school division promised in 2011 the county would deliver on two new high schools for $52 million.
“A lot of individuals stated repeatedly (the projects) would never be on time, would never be on budget” or bring students together from the different communities. “Well, we stand here tonight on time and under budget,” Perry said, and the kids behaved as role models for adults, choosing character and unity over divisiveness.
Perry said the two ribbon cutting ceremonies for the new schools this week should “be a signal as a beginning for the greatest chapter in Wise County” and stand “as a sign of hope and rededication” to a brighter future.
Collins referred to the past rancor over consolidation, noting that when the high schools replaced by the new ones were built in the 1950s, those ’50s structures consolidated existing schools predating that time and even prior decades, as well.
“Consolidation has always been present in our county,” she said, “and that’s what helped move this county forward.”
Perry said, “We’ve probably seen the worst in some people, but thank God” the consolidation debate and eventual shining results on display Monday and Wednesday “brought forth the best in some people, too.”