Construction workers in orange hard hats are swarming the Abbotsford Senior Secondary School site for the last push to ready the new state-of-the-art building for students and the start of the coming school year.
It's crunch time for the $45-million project that saw most of the former Abbotsford Collegiate pulled to the ground while rising from the rubble over the summer.
"The inside of the school will be ready for students when they arrive," said project director Bob Mainman, School District 34's assistant director of facilities.
Walking past workers erecting wood arches and paving sidewalks, Mainman entered the heart of the new facility, a three-storey central rotunda made of concrete pillars, glass, steel and wood.
"This is the hub of the building," said Mainman, looking up at the roof, punctured by a central window that opens up like an eye to the sky with massive beams radiating outward in a star pattern.
From the rotunda, halls branch out like spokes in a wheel toward new classrooms and modern workshops to serve the secondary school's trades and technical programs.
Culinary students will be cooking in a bright, new stainless steel kitchen.
Other trades students will learn their skills in spacious, well-lit electrical or mechanical shops with glass garage doors that open up and expand to the outside.
Participants in the hair design program, previously crammed into a small portable, now will work in a bright, chic modern salon that rivals anything in the private sector.
Even in the depths of the facility, natural light emanates from large windows featured in almost every room.
"The building takes advantage of a lot of natural light," said Mainman.
And that's not the only "natural" feature of the building.
The building is being constructed to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold standards, which would make it one of the first schools in the province to attain that high level of sustainable and green design.
Craven, Huston, Powers Architects firm designed both Abbotsford Senior Secondary and the attached public library.
It's a fitting metaphor that architect Ryan Huston, who went to Abbotsford Senior, is in a large part responsible for the rejuvenation of the close to 60-year-old school.
The new school will be more than just a place for students, but a centre for the entire community, also housing the Sweeney Neighbourhood Centre and the new Abbotsford Community Library that is slated to open in November.
The new neighbourhood learning centre will include shared common spaces for community agencies, such as the United Way and Fraser Health offices, a computer lab, counselling and seniors' services.
The community library contains both a school and public section and will house a total of 90,000 books and 22 computer and Internet stations.
The ceiling features exposed wood beams that extend outside to the roof's overhang.
It will also have a kids' corner, a teen section and wireless Internet cafes - one of which will be equipped with comfy chairs and a gas fireplace.
Although the public section of the library will still be under construction in September, the school wing will be ready for senior secondary students, noted Mainman.
The school grounds will also see two new playing fields: an all-weather turf field and a revamped grass field, said Mainman.
The playing fields will still be under construction when students arrive on Sept. 4.
The new Abbotsford Senior facility is the largest and most expensive project undertaken by the Abbotsford School District to date, said Mainman.
Though the building retained some functioning classrooms and its gyms, students will be returning to find their old school, built in the mid-1950s, almost magically replaced by a fabulous new facility.
"The students were in a really old building but this school will revitalize the area," said Mainman.
"Students will be going to a school they can be really proud of."
- To get a bird's eye view of the ongoing construction at Abbotsford Senior visit Craven, Huston, Powers Architects web cam at chparchitects.com/news/Abby_Collegiate_03.