Amid the clatter of power tools and men in hard hats at the new Conway High School, dozens of teachers carted in boxes of books, classroom decorations and folders.
Inside, on the second floor, Amy Westjohn, a pre-calculus teacher, organized her cabinets and inspected bright origami flowers a student had given her once. Her classroom is "Wampus Cat blue," she said, smiling.
The new high school for 10th through 12th graders is energizing everyone, Westjohn said.
"Everybody loves it," she said. "It’s almost surreal walking around thinking this is where we get to come to work everyday."
Despite community rumors, the high school will be open for classes to begin Monday, Aug. 20, said Clay Gordon, chief development officer at Nabholz Construction Services. The company has been building the new school since March 2011. The price tag of that new building is $25.7 million, superintendent Greg Murry said in email.
The 170,000-square-foot, three-story school has a temporary certification of occupancy that will become permanent once some small details are finished in about 20 days, said Mike Armstrong, project manager at Nabholz. Some of those things include some landscaping, he said.
But the school is 99 percent to 100 percent finished, Armstrong said.
"The classroom building is done," he said.
Standing in her classroom, teacher Cindy Beckman admired her new windows. In her old classroom she had no windows, she said. The new school is a huge change from what students had previously, Beckman said.
"While I have lovely memories of the Pods, I’m much happier in the new facility," she said.
Students feel the same way, said Beckman’s 16-year-old son, Will. He will be in 11th grade this year.
"I think it’s awesome," Will Beckman said. "It’s a big improvement over the old West campus. Everything seems easier to get to — more open and relaxed."
The hallways are bigger, the windows give light, the technology is impressive. The school has gone from having one science lab at the old school to 10 in the new one, Principal Joel Linn said.
Continuing construction for an addition to the cafeteria will mean detours for foot traffic outside, but by next Monday, all the workers’ ladders will be gone from the classroom building, Linn said. The men finishing the stairs will be finished. The furniture — $755,000 worth of it — will be moved.
Teachers plan to work on their classrooms throughout the weekend, Linn said. There might be touch up work to do next week, but that won’t be a problem, he said.
On Monday, about 2,000 students pour into the new high school and sit in shiny new seats. And about 168 teachers and staff will be prepared for them, Linn said.
"We’re ready for school," Armstrong said.