The Mustangs won their Homecoming football game Oct. 12, and Mainland Regional High School had even more to celebrate.

Faculty, members of the Board of Education, local mayors, assemblymen and residents gathered outside the Linwood school that evening to celebrate the completion of its three-year, $40 million reconstruction project with a ribbon cutting and dedication ceremony.

"I call it the New Mainland Regional High School," Board of Education President John Medica said.

And for Medica, who has served more than 30 years as a member of the board, it was no ordinary day at the Oak Avenue address.

The school's newly added science annex was named in his honor.

"Well, I only look at it as recognition of all the work that's been accomplished since 1980 by many board members, not just me. It's a credit to all of them," the president said.

Medica, who resides in Somers Point, was a member of Mainland's second graduating class in 1963. After receiving his bachelor's degree in science from Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pa., he went on to teach biology and related sciences at both Oakcrest and Absegami high schools for 32 years.

He has served as president of the Board of Education for the past three years.

"I have enjoyed every minute of it. It's been a team effort, between the Board of Education and the cooperation with builders and architects. The credit goes to the citizens who voted for this in 2008," Medica said in regard to the construction project. "It would have been impossible to do without the support of the public."

The new wing includes seven classrooms, two science labs and five general classrooms, said Kim Gniewyk, the school board's secretary.

"(The addition) allows us to fully serve the science curriculum, which has really grown over the years to include AP courses in biology, chemistry and physics," Medica said.

Medica described physics as a hands-on type of science in which certain equipment is required to study the subject properly.

"It requires a sophisticated lab space, and more technology and space for demonstrations."

The construction project went beyond this science-specific addition. The school, which celebrated its 50th birthday last year, also received new administration offices, Board of Education offices and a newly renovated gymnasium and locker rooms.

"This really helped to free up much needed space, a lot of classrooms were being used for a lot of different things they weren't designed for. This spread things out a bit, gave the (school) a more overall balance, relative to the programs' needs," Superintendent Dr. Thomas A. Baruffi said.

"Every part of the school was touched in some way," Medica added.

The ceremony also included the presentation of a banner hung above the varsity gym honoring the dedication and career of recently retired athletic director George Evinski.

The Northfield resident, who began working at Mainland in its third year, has seen the school throughout its every stage during the past five decades.

"It really was such a humbling thing for me. It's sad leaving just a wonderful place to work," Evinski said.

Evinski has worked as a physical education teacher and athletic director, as well as coached sports teams. He saw his three children graduate from the Linwood school, and expects to add his grandchildren to the list of alumni in a few years.

"It's always been a big part of my life. I've seen a big transition from a brand new school, to a school in need of renovation to one now that has it. Now the facility is beautiful and those involved deserve a lot of credit."

Contact Caitlin Honan:

609-272-7227