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Parkland High School: Institution of learning for more than 3,200 students, or tribute to a blazing-fast starship co-piloted by a Wookiee?

A satellite photograph of the school that seems to resemble Han Solo’s “Millennium Falcon” ship from the “Star Wars” movies went viral over the weekend, generating a flurry of blog posts and links from Twitter and Facebook users across the nation and even from other countries.

“Officials at Parkland High School … deny that this is anything more than a coincidence but their piddling attempts at Jedi mind tricks will not work on us,” quipped writer Shannon Lucas in a post Thursday evening on the blog for the E! television show The Soup. Lucas indicated the image had gone viral last year and was starting to make the rounds again.

Then, faster than Luke Skywalker could bullseye a womp rat, aerial view of the school in South Whitehall Township exploded onto social media. A blog post for the British publication Metro said the image was trending worldwide on Twitter by Monday morning, and the school ended up on the front page of popular news aggregators such as BuzzFeed.

Despite the attention from so many bloggers, Parkland officials remain insistent that this is not the starship they’re looking for. “There is no connection,” said Nicole McGalla, spokeswoman for the district.

In fact, McGalla said, the school is an exact replica of a Minnesota high school, designed by Minneapolis-based architect firm ATSR.

“We don’t design buildings based on what they would look like from space,” said Dean Beeninga, one of ATSR’s lead architects. And even if they did, he said, “it would be pretty hard to go in and convince people a spaceship is the right start” for a school design.

The campus’ unusual curves were intended to allow for more windows and natural light in classrooms, in addition to keeping the whole school compact and efficient, Beeninga said.

“I would think that the ‘Star Wars’ creators wanted to create something that looked very organized and efficient, too,” said Beeninga, who has seven kids and admits to being a ‘Star Wars’ fan. “Like a spaceship, it’s very simple, very organized. The ‘Millennium Falcon’ must be a good educational model.”

His firm has designed 15 other schools that have also been likened to spaceships, including Central Bucks South in Bucks County. “Maybe that is where educational architecture is going,” he said.

Back in the Lehigh Valley, local bloggers and former Parkland padawans have been chiming in with their own comments, quips and blog posts about the school’s design. Blogger Christopher Cocca wrote that, as president of Parkland’s class of 1998, he never attended classes in the now-famous building but was there at its groundbreaking in 1997.

“You should also know that I lobbied hard that we change the school’s mascot to Jedi, but I had to settle for renaming the track the Kessel Run,” he wrote.

He didn’t say whether he was able to run it in less than 12 parsecs.

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