Roger Carpenter couldn't have been happier to bring his wife Allison and their three daughters to his new “office” – his biology classroom at Aiken High School's new science and math building that was formally dedicated on Monday.


He previously taught in the “G” wing, which houses the gymnasium – built in 1995 – and until now, was the only building that came after the others constructed in 1953. Carpenter and others in this wing had only an old portable lab with minimal room.


“This will be the biggest thing in our district for a while,” he said of the new facility. “We can collaborate more with each other. The mood has changed 180 or even 360 degrees. There's a lot of pride here.”


The dedication is for a new building that is particularly meaningful, said Principal Garen Cofer.


“This is a facility where we can celebrate a learning institution for our young people,” he said.


In the 21st century, the Aiken County School District has renovated a number of schools and built a new elementary school in Wagener.


The Aiken High School addition perhaps marks a more long-term formal approach – identifying specific, major school needs. Next up for dedications will be projects at Ridge Spring-Monetta High School, North Augusta High School and possibly Leavelle-McCampbell Middle School.


“To have this science and math building here means a lot,” said Cofer. “Teachers were in substandard classes for so long.”


Superintendent Dr. Beth Everitt and School Board Chair Rosemary English also marked the importance of the new addition. It's more than brick and mortar, Everitt said, describing it as a facility where teachers will leave a legacy of their work, and students will have their own memories.


The science and math building serves as a commitment to public education, English said. She added as well that the building honors the past as much as the present and future.


On the front row during the ceremony were School Board member Tad Barber, retired teacher Stacey Riddick and her husband Allen – all of them English's former students at the school. Barber graduated from Aiken High in 1977 – the youngest of seven siblings to do so.


“With all the old buildings, this is something we've needed for a long time,” he said. “This is the first step for a new learning facility.”


Kyle Burney, a senior and the Naval Junior ROTC commander, is taking physics and calculus in the new building.


“It's great,” he said. “Everything feels different, a lot better.”


Senior writer Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard's education reporter and has been with the newspaper since September 2001. He is a native of Walterboro and majored in journalism at the University of Georgia.