Students and staff at Central Junior High were smiling today on the first day back from the holiday break.
Shiny floors and dust-free desks have folks at Central Junior High School in blithe spirits.
Violet Blosser and Ceri Hedman, eighth-graders, looked up and down the second-floor hallway where they sat reading a play and pointed out how the building looked different when they returned today from winter break.
"The lights work, so you can actually see in your locker," Ceri said.
"They put in carpet. They did all this cool stuff," Violet added, turning a highlighted page of "Blithe Spirit" by Noel Coward. "It's better."
Crews worked through the holidays to finish the bulk of the renovation work at Central, Principal Ted Juneau said. Finishing touches such as waxing wood floors and polishing marble trim gave the building a new-school-year look.
"Everyone's got a smile on their faces today," Juneau said.
Several teachers and parents had criticized the appearance of the school in recent weeks. Olathe-based Midwest Titan Inc. was the general contractor. The company removed its office trailer from the parking lot Monday.
The original contract date passed in November. The district allowed unpenalized extensions because of delays such as weather and flaws in the existing structure of the building.
Grant Ackerman, project director for the district, said a few tasks remained, such as installing an elevator and patching some carpet. He expects the elevator installed sometime this month.
Carol Pilant, school librarian, was one of the outspoken critics of the school's condition, which until the break was often frigid, noisy and dusty.
She said she watched children as they first ascended the stairs to the library and said they were scanning the ceiling and walls, wide-eyed at the improvement.
"They said it would be done a day after we went on break," she said. "When I left, I thought no way. It was a pit. I steeled myself."
Her steel softened when she returned. "Happy New Year," she said.