Floyd Dryden Middle School has been undergoing an extensive renovation this summer that will provide students with a fresh new atmosphere for the new school year.
"We had a very inferior facility before, an outdated facility," said Principal Tom Milliron. "It looked like you stepped out of the '70s, which works for me because I stepped out of the '70s, but the building is just going to be better suited for today's student."
Contractors are racing against the clock to get the renovation as close to finished as possible before the opening bell on Wednesday. Plywood still covers the windows and numerous rooms remained vacant of furniture on Thursday.
"We should have the vast majority of the work done. There's still going to be work to do after the school year starts, but not in-your-face type of work," Milliron said.
Jerry Olson of North Pacific Erectors, one of two superintendents for the project, said the crews have been working since school let out in the spring to be ready for the new school year.
"It's going very well and it's been busy. These last couple of weeks have been very busy," he said. "There will be people working up to the last minute."
Juneau School District Superintendent Peggy Cowan said the construction budget for the project approved by the Juneau School Board was $4.9 million and the fixtures, furniture and equipment budget approved was $588,000. She said the budgets prepared will not necessarily be the same as the expenditures when the renovation is completed.
Because work is still in progress, teachers are going to be scrambling to get classes set up and have been allowed to skip the districtwide teacher in-service day on Monday to prepare for opening day, Milliron said.
The school underwent a similar renovation two years ago, which primarily focused on the sixth and seventh grade wings, and phase two of the renovation is intended to finish upgrading the school to make it a better learning environment, Milliron said.
The renovation includes the installation of new cabinets to add extra storage for the classrooms, new surfaces and fixtures for the bathrooms, new carpet, doors and windows. The gym, band room and the two computer labs have also been upgraded to fulfill the needs of students and faculty members.
"I think the new unified look with the entire building gives an overall positive energy that transfers to the kids and their behavior because of the atmosphere," said eighth grade language arts teacher Jeannette Sleppy.
Milliron said he is excited about the new computers and operating system that will give teachers an extra edge for keeping students' attention.
"We had a mix-match of dinosaurs here ... so it's going to make a big difference in two ways. First of all, we don't have these old machines we're constantly trying to keep running, and second of all, we have standardized the computers in the building," he said.
New lighting and bookshelves have been installed in the library to help make it more inviting, Milliron said.
School officials learned some lessons in the renovation's first phase, including students' color preference for lockers, Milliron said. The sixth and seventh grade lockers installed were three different colors.
"Everybody wanted a red locker so this time I had all red lockers put in for eighth grade, so by the time the kids hit eighth grade they all get their red lockers," he said.
Milliron said safety was a major consideration. The foyer has been widened and dividing doors have been removed so students can move about more freely. An extended canopy was erected off the bus ramp so students won't have to crowd for space when it rains, he said.
"It's going to enhance the safety of the school by making the congestion a lot less, the crowding a lot less," he said.
Sleppy said the renovation will be a source of pride for students, who often referred to Floyd Dryden as the "old school" when comparing it to Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School.
Milliron said parents and community members are invited to a barbecue on Thursday, Sept. 1 that will give people an opportunity to see the renovations.
Eric Morrison can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.