FALL RIVER, Mass. (WPRI) — Though a brand new Durfee High School opened its doors to students for the first time last fall, city and state leaders officially dedicated the space on Wednesday.

The ceremony was a chance for alumni to see how the school would provide opportunities for current and future students.

Fall River Mayor Paul Coogan is a graduate and former faculty member.

“I went to the first one, I worked for 27 years at the second one, and we helped to promote this one, so I’m very, very proud of my Durfee heritage,” Coogan told 12 News.

The former high school vice principal and school committee member recalled what he described as “a long battle” to get the school built.

“It started with going to the taxpayers to increase their own taxes so we could have something special for the kids in the city of Fall River, and they agreed with us,” Coogan explained.

In a special election in March 2018, voters approved building the replacement with a $98.5 million price tag for the city, on top of $165 million coming from the Massachusetts School Building Authority. A groundbreaking ceremony was held in November of that year.

Kyle Neves, a Durfee grad and building committee student representative, spoke at Wednesday’s dedication about how the new school was much-needed. During his freshman year in 2016, the air conditioning broke in the last month of school, and more issues followed in the years ahead.

“Sophomore year, when things couldn’t get any worse, a pipe burst and a couple of tens of thousands of gallons of water entered our school and then we missed about a week of school,” Neves recalled.

“Junior year we had a shelter in place and some of the rooms weren’t equipped to lock. And as we all know, that’s definitely a safety hazard,” he added.

Now, Evolv weapon screening systems are at every entrance in an effort to prevent guns or knives being brought inside.

“Those are the same machines you walk through when you go to a Patriots game,” Coogan said. “You don’t have to stop. You go through, you pass your Chromebook off to the side and you walk right through.”

“It’s settled everybody’s issues a little bit, and it’s something we were more than willing to invest in for student safety,” the mayor added.

The new Durfee incudes a television studio, early education center and rooms for vocational programs like cosmetology. Classrooms also include space for students to learn everything from engineering to interior design.

“The new Durfee High School will provide educators with the upgraded space and state-of-the-art technology to support them in fulfilling their commitment to their students,” Sen. Ed Markey said in his keynote address.