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Newton begins work on $160m high school

Now the dirt will really start flying.

Construction work has begun on the new Newton North High School, the most expensive high school building project in the state.

Mayor David B. Cohen, Superintendent Jeffrey M. Young, state Auditor A. Joseph DeNucci, and other public officials attended a groundbreaking ceremony Monday for the new school, which could cost as much as $160 million.

Designed by internationally renowned architect Graham Gund, the school will include an elaborate, state-of-the-art theater for student productions, a glass-walled cafeteria and student-run restaurant, and a sprawling new outdoor stadium.

Construction is expected to take three years.

On Friday, demolition crews from Dimeo Construction Co. of Providence tore down the crumbling concrete bleachers at Dickinson Stadium, a vestige of the old Newton High School.

In upcoming months, workers will also remove contaminated soil from the site, much of it containing buried asbestos tile from the original school on the site, and begin the drilling necessary for the new school's foundation.

The first steel beams are expected to go up in late fall.

Classes will continue while work is underway. Principal Jennifer Price, who was unable to attend the groundbreaking, said she is prepared to handle any disruptions.

"A good school is much more than bricks and mortar," she said.

Price had a miniature groundbreaking of her own at Newton North's graduation ceremony earlier this year. She donned a hardhat and dug up a clod of dirt from the graduation field, flinging it into the air.

To the amusement of many, it landed squarely between where the mayor and superintendent were seated.

Young acknowledged the symbolism, calling it "pretty funny."

"We could see the arc, and we froze, praying it didn't land in our laps," he said.