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Classroom With a History Gains a Future

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The residents of Fairhaven, Mass., have taught school officials a lesson in preservation.

The seaside community in the southeastern tip of the state has rejected a controversial plan to remodel Fairhaven High School's Room 7, a 90-year-old classroom with chandeliers, oak columns, and 102 wooden desks that is now used as a senior homeroom and study hall.

The school last year proposed removing the desks and turning the classroom into a multipurpose room as a part of an $18.4 million renovation and expansion project. But residents who wanted to save the venerable classroom started a petition drive to stop the renovation. (See "Dispute Over Old Desks Divides Mass. Community," April 12, 1995.)

Room 7 remained the center of town debate for more than a year--until voters this spring decided by a 2-1 ratio to keep the classroom intact.

"Children can be taught anywhere, but it is an education in itself to be in that room," said Mary Battaini, the president of the high school alumni association for the past 16 years. Over the years, the group has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to restore prime areas in the school, which was built by oil baron Henry Huttleston Rogers in 1906 as a gift to his hometown.

With its marble floors, stained-glass windows, and elegant 17th-century design, Fairhaven High was considered one of the most perfect American high school buildings of its day.

Gail Isaksen, a member of the Fairhaven Historic Commission and an alumna of Fairhaven, said, "The school is an important artifact that is still useful to the students."

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