South Junior High construction
Near the end of November - at a time when most schools have settled into a routine - construction workers still are part of the school day at South Junior High School.
But, in the words of Principal Will Fernandez, there's a light at the end of the tunnel. And workers soon will apply final touches at South and nearby Broken Arrow School.
The new South was part of a $23.9 million project that also included renovations and an addition to Broken Arrow. The two schools are in the 2700 block of Louisiana Street.
Work started in August 2006 - under an aggressive schedule that was delayed last spring by weather. The delay forced administrators to push back the start of classes at South by three days, and some teachers had to double up in classrooms and float around until late October, when all rooms could be used.
Staff members are eager for all work to be complete.
"It will be a great situation. It's just like anything new. There's a few kinks to work out," said Brandon Mellen, a South business education teacher.
One unique feature at South - ground-floor classrooms with all-glass garage-style doors - allow teachers to expand their classes into the hallway.
"It's distracting. Initially, when they showed us these plans we all went, 'Oh my gosh, junior high kids, no way,''' said science teacher Kathy Stuntz.
Some teachers have covered the middle panes with paper, Stuntz said, but she likes to see into the hallway so she can keep better tabs on students.
Fernandez said administrators and teachers still are discussing how they will take advantage of the school's extraordinarily wide hallways. Two classes could meet together in the hallway: for example, a history class studying the Great Depression and an English class reading "The Grapes of Wrath."
That plan is just fine with Rich Barr, fire marshal for Lawrence-Douglas County Fire & Medical, who said students and teachers can temporarily use hallways during class time as long they maintain a 6-foot-wide walkway.
Several teachers lauded the building for its use of light, compared with the much darker old school that probably was best known for its round shape. The larger school also meant the school district could get rid of portable classrooms. But not everything is larger.
"I'm pretty disappointed for the librarian, and the locker area seems to be difficult to supervise," said Shirley Bove, an electronic media, keyboarding and American history teacher. "Overall, I feel good about the school. I'm really (eager) for the parking lot."
Fernandez said security cameras are in place in the locker areas and that things seem to have gone smoothly during passing periods.
Marcia McPhail, South's librarian for 17 years, said the new library allows staff to group books and materials on certain subjects. She and administrators have decided to add shelves into the media classroom across the hall to make room for geography and history materials.
"We're a little tight in space, but I think that's going to work out," McPhail said.
She said the new library beats the old one, where she could not observe all students.
The punch list
Stuntz said conditions have improved since the school opened, but teachers are counting the days when all details are fixed, such as adding tile to the concrete floor in her classroom and putting rubber tips on the legs of her students' chairs.
Fernandez said construction workers and administrators have worked hard to meet the needs of teachers and the custodial staff.
"Every teacher rose to the occasion, and every teacher knew that we were in a difficult situation, but they also knew that there was going to be light at the end of the tunnel. So the light's already here," Fernandez said.
Several teachers said Fernandez has kept them in the loop as far as construction developments.
"Once the punch list is done, I think everybody will be real happy with it," said Scott Robinson, South's band teacher.
The main gymnasium floor likely will be ready for students on Dec. 10, said Tom Bracciano, district operations and facility planning director. Now that the old South has been demolished, administrators expect a new parking lot and the office area, classrooms and Broken Arrow to be ready next week, he said.
When that occurs, administrators will go through South with crews to touch up other things. Other projects will be finished during winter break, and crews will spray down the new track surface next spring.
"Overall, I'm very, very happy that we've got a new building. I think when the last few things get put on, we're going to be very happy here," said Bove, the electronic media, keyboarding and history teacher.