An historic groundbreaking was held in Chapel Hill Tuesday.

“This is momentous,” chair of the Orange County Commissioners Mark Dorosin said early Tuesday morning at the groundbreaking ceremony for renovations set to get underway at Chapel Hill High School.

“This school has meant a lot to the history of this community and continues to mean a lot and will continue to mean a lot.”

The Chapel Hill Town Council approved the renovation plans earlier this year, which came after residents across the county approved a bond in 2016 to allocate money to the Chapel Hill – Carrboro City Schools district for the construction costs.

The collaborative effort it took to bring about the groundbreaking and the history of the high school were common themes at Tuesday’s ceremony.

Bill Melega has been a history teacher at Chapel Hill High for more than 20 years, and he said the new facility would allow for the high school to continue building on that tradition.

“To continue blazing that trail set forth way back in 1966 and live up to the high standards, to enable all of our students to learn, to belong and become the people that will make a difference.”

David Mason spoke at the groundbreaking but said he could not offer his memories from his time at Chapel Hill High. Mason was coming through the school system during segregation and attended Lincoln High School, where he and other black students led civil rights efforts throughout Orange County. Rather than a reflection, Mason offered what he called a prayer for the future.

“It is my prayer that the teachers of these walls will treat every student as if the student has the potential to change the world,” Mason said, “and that the expectation for every student at Chapel Hill High School is academic excellence and personal growth.”

A rising junior at Chapel Hill High, Jess Schinsky, said she was excited about the new building, even though she won’t have the same benefits from it as the next generation of students, including her younger brother.

“But high school isn’t about the structure itself,” she told the crowd. “It’s about these permanent memories and skills that will ultimately make us better people.

“Chapel Hill High School is my place where I discovered the most about who I want to be. I hope that future students feel the same way, and I hope that they make the most out of the new building.”

While construction is getting underway this summer, it will continue through the 2019-2020 academic year. District superintendent Pam Baldwin acknowledged construction challenges were ahead but said the benefits would enhance the district’s efforts to educate students.

“There is no doubt that we have an interesting couple of years ahead of us,” Baldwin said. “But I am very excited, not only about the final product, but about what will be happening in this building every single day.

“It is about the lessons that we learn along the way that will make us grow and allow us to really provide our students with an excellent education.”