Thousands attend Heights High's grand opening

Visitors admired the building's front exterior in what used to be the courtyard. [Photo by Lauren R. Pacini]

The community came together for the grand opening of Cleveland Heights High School on Sunday, Sept. 10. More than 4,000 people toured the newly reopened building, and their reactions were overwhelmingly positive.

The words “beautiful,” “amazing,” “fantastic” were heard time and again as alumni, parents, students and community residents wandered the halls. Two dozen teachers opened their classrooms to share their learning spaces with the visitors.

“Two thumbs up, all the way through,” said Bruce Tyler, a 1974 graduate and father of a Heights eighth-grader. His favorite spaces were the science rooms. “I know a thing or two about microscopes,” joked Tyler, a cyto-genetics technologist at University Hospitals.

Other visitors said they were impressed by the music spaces, the competition gym and swimming pool, and the career and technical education offerings.

“All the things they offer, like pharmacology and physical therapy . . . it’s insane!” said 1994 graduate Cary Gernstetter. “I wish they had offered all that when I was in school. They have so many career-oriented options.”

Many graduates said they wished they had the chance to be students in the renovated building. “I feel cheated,” joked 1991 graduate Leroy Daugherty, who was touring with his wife, Kelly Bullock Daugherty, class of 1990, and their three children.

The most common refrain from alumni was how unrecognizable the building was.

“I think it’s really great,” said Henry Hammond, class of 2012. “But I don’t even feel like I’m in the same building. I keep looking for familiar sites, like the street out the window, so I can figure out where I am.”

Kara and John Schellenberg, impressed with the building’s transformation, said they hoped for more opportunities for the community to visit. Their two sons are Heights alumni, including 2015 graduate Andrew, who finished his high school career at Wiley. “He knew he was making that sacrifice for the good of others,” said John.

Heights Middle School seventh-grader Lola Chicotel could barely contain her excitement: “It’s awesome! And it’s crazy that we get to go here. Crazy in a good way!”

Pauline George made the trip from Michigan and toured the space with Edna Carlisle, a friend she’d met at Taylor Elementary School in the late 1960s. The two women, members of the class of 1981, were overwhelmed with emotion and pride—both for the physical building and the meaning it holds. “A Heights education is a true gift,” said Carlisle. “It allows you to go out into the world and interact with all different kinds of people, while knowing you can connect with them because you knew people like that in your own high school.”

The two were joined on the tour by a niece and her childhood friend, who had brought along their own children.

“There’s so much love here,” said Carlisle.

“This is so much more than just a high school,” said George. “It’s a community.”

Krissy Dietrich Gallagher

Krissy Dietrich Gallagher, a longtime resident of Cleveland Heights, is a former district teacher and a freelance journalist under contract with the CH-UH City School District. A longer version of this article appeared at

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Volume 10, Issue 10, Posted 10:15 AM, 09.12.2017