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Forest Hills groundbreaking paves the way for groundbreakers

The atmosphere was filled with anticipation and excitement as Forest Hills High School recently celebrated a momentous milestone with a groundbreaking ceremony. The event, held on Wednesday, May 31, at the school, marked the commencement of the construction phase of the school's highly awaited new campus. The groundbreaking ceremony, attended by members of the board of education, UCPS senior leaders and school administrative staff, students and community members, symbolized the beginning of a transformative journey for the high school's students and faculty. Watch the ceremony.

With a 62 percent approval rate from voters in November, Forest Hills High is one of the two schools selected for construction under the 2022 School Bond. The groundbreaking ceremony served as a testament to the community's dedication to providing modern educational facilities for its students.

This project will bring all classes and activities together in one modern building, estimated to cost $96 million. The current Forest Hills building, which is 60 years old, is inadequate to cater to the demands of a modern-day high school. The new two-story facility, which is expected to open in 2025, will unleash exciting possibilities for teaching and learning.

Dr. Kevin Plue, the principal of Forest Hills, expressed gratitude to everyone involved in the project and introduced Adrien Porter as the new principal, who will ensure a smooth transition and continued progress for the school.

"Today, we physically break ground on a construction project, but over the next 50-plus years, this new building will enable many students and staff to become groundbreakers in the world," said Dr. Plue. "We are not here just to celebrate the building of a new school, but to celebrate the futures that will be shaped within it."

Dr. Andrew Houlihan, Superintendent, expressed gratitude to elected officials, administrators, Union County government staff, students, parents, and the community for their support. He also emphasized the positive impact the newly constructed facility will have on the educational experience.

"This marks the beginning of an important journey for future generations of Forest Hills High School students and our community," said Dr. Houlihan. "We strongly believe that every child attending Union County Public Schools, regardless of where they live, deserves access to a modern facility. That's exactly what we are doing today. We hope this project will be the first of many new buildings in our district over the next decade."

Board Chair Kathy Heintel highlighted the project's significance in consolidating the middle school onto the same campus. "We are excited about the construction of the new high school. Additionally, we plan to bring East Union Middle School together with Forest Hills on a shared campus, following the model of other clusters in Union County, by renovating the old high school," explained Heintel. "We are actively working to make this plan a reality."

Bayleigh Rape, the ninth-grade secretary of the student council, shared her excitement and hope for the improved learning environment that the new building will offer. She spoke about new beginnings and the changes they bring. "Hopefully, the Class of 2026 will be the first class to graduate on the new Forest Hills stage, knowing we were part of the change and its history."

Representatives from the construction and architecture companies involved in the project, David Bellemy of LS3P Architects and Justin Heitz of Shelco, LLC, talked about the collaborative effort and expertise needed to bring the innovative design to life. They showcased a 3-D model that demonstrated their commitment to creating a modern, usable space that meets the needs of 21st-century education.

The school was meticulously designed to showcase its exceptional programs, which include Career and Technical Education (CTE), agriculture and metalwork, among others. With the valuable input of both staff and students, the architects have crafted a compact, functional and flexible building that spans an impressive 213,000 square feet. This thoughtfully designed space is capable of accommodating 1,200 to 1,500 students. Each department has been carefully considered to ensure optimal utilization of space and resources to support the diverse needs of students and staff.

The groundbreaking ceremony for Forest Hills High School marks a significant milestone. The community's dedication to investing in the future has paved the way for a transformative journey. Once completed, the new facility will usher in an exciting era for Forest Hills.