Bigger, better and state of the art.
Those are the words that describe Wethersfield High School's new gym, media center and music rooms. Students and staff are "thrilled" with new spaces, which opened recently, Principal Thomas Moore said.
"Because we've been in such flux for a year and half, it's good to see some of the fruits of our labor, so the kids actually get to use it," Moore said. "They've been inconvenienced, so they deserve to get some of this back as quickly as possible."
The opening of the new wings marks a milestone in the ongoing $85 million reconstruction of the school, which is now about half done, officials said. Students are continuing to use the facility as it is rebuilt around them.
The new media center, which opened last month, is expansive and bright thanks to large windows in one corner. One particularly popular feature is the multi-colored lights hanging over the lounge area, Moore said. The lights look like giant uncapped chap sticks, each a different color.
The new library, significantly bigger than the old one, has many new books, 30 new Apple computers, smart boards and a classroom. Moore said he hopes boards and commissions will use the room for meetings.
"I want to try to get the community in here as much as possible," he said.
The new band and choral rooms feature acoustic-enhancing ceiling panels and lighting that automatically adjusts to the amount of natural light. Other features include more storage space and practice rooms. Still to come is an electronic music suite and a studio where students will be able to record and mix music, Moore said.
"The students and staff are extremely happy with this part of the project," he said.
Moore said he was especially pleased to open the new gym in late January, enabling the boys and girls basketball teams to play home games at the school again.
"The kids had a great experience this basketball season," he said.
The gym is bigger than the old facility, with a new scoreboard, new locker rooms and space for up to 900 spectators in deployable bleachers. One unique feature: the volleyball net is cranked upward into the ceiling when not in use, eliminating the need for stanchions in the gym floor, Moore said.
The lobby area, including the trophy case and snack bar, remain unfinished and will be completed by the time school reopens in September, Moore said.
Next up on the project will be reconstruction of the central offices, the swimming pool, science labs and the cafeteria, Moore said. Most of the work will be done over summer vacation, he said. Major construction will start the day school lets out, schools superintendent Michael Emmett said.
"It's our expectation to hand over the building on June 19 at the end of the day and let them have at it," Emmett said.
Schools superintendent Michael Emmett said that the project is currently behind schedule and contractors are working to catch up. The school will still be done by September 2016, as planned, he said.