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Dover Area High School alumni on Thursday had the opportunity to pay homage to their alma mater and the memories in its walls.

In just a few months, the existing high school building will undergo construction to become the district's new middle school. A new high school is slated to open next fall.

The school's culture and wellness committee members were mulling ways to remember the history of the space, and what started as an exercise by faculty and staff became a community-wide event.

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"I was thinking of different mindfulness things to do for the faculty," said English teacher and committee head Cassi Ney, who suggested participants take pictures of their favorite parts of the building.

"Things tend to happen fast and creep up on you," she said, thinking of the quickly approaching construction date, so this was a way for them to take it in consciously now while it's still whole. 

The school hosted "A Stroll Down Memory Lane" on Thursday, Oct. 24, in which visitors could tour the building, look through old scrapbooks and yearbooks, and bid on trophies and memorabilia in a silent auction.

There won't be enough room in the new school trophy cases, Ney said, so many of them must go. The committee decided to take the opportunity to let them go in a creative and fun way that would benefit the school's alumni association.

That way, some former students might get to take a piece of history with them.

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Dover Area High School has been a fixture in the community since 1928, when it first opened, said history teacher Douglas Hoover.

The school was at the center of a church and state separation battle in 2005 when its attempts to teach "intelligent design" as a scientific theory rather than a religious interpretation resulted in a blockbuster court ruling. Tammy Kitzmiller took the school board to court in a three-month trial that gained national attention, resulting in a 139-page ruling against the school board that included a "proof" of evolution by the judge.

Hoover and Chuck Benton, director of career and technical education, led tours through the building, pointing out ways in which it evolved over the years.

The original building might only have one entranceway left, Hoover said, but visitors can see the two 1950s additions when they stand in the back courtyard. There's a brick-covered entrance that used to be open before the last renovation in 2001 — part of a major security upgrade after the 1999 Columbine school shooting in Colorado.

Hoover even shared a fun fact — the bronze eagle sitting on the marquee in front of the school comes from the old Harrisburg East Mall fountain, after the principal at the time wrote the mall and asked if he could have it when the mall shut down.

Julia Kurtz, a 1975 graduate, recalled the senior lounge she used to go to, which was for students with good grades and highly coveted for its couches and soda machine.

"You didn't have soda machines in the school," she said.

The culture of Dover Area High School has always been focused on history, Hoover said, remembering a wrestling coach who would tell him stories from the 1950s when he first arrived at the school 31 years ago.

And the students were just as interested — publishing an ongoing local book series called "Bloodroot" about the history of the school and community.

So really, celebrating the history of the building today is carrying on that tradition, Hoover said.

As a parting gift, former students can leave their legacy  — via a painted rock with name, initials, graduation year or athletic symbol — and it will reside either in the middle school building or become part of the new high school.

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