Two and a half years ago, Chilliwack secondary school students could take in their whole new $58 million school in one glance under a plexi-glass cover.
Today, that miniature scale model is a 20,000-square-metre reality, and even two-hours won't be enough for them to see the whole thing on their first day of school Tuesday.
Debris is still piled high in front of what will eventually be the new school's main entrance, and construction fencing still surrounds two sides of the building, but the new CSS will be open and operational by Tuesday, principal Rick Jones said.
"We're just doing all the last little touchups," he said.
Jones was at the school Tuesday touring school board trustees and reporters around the snazzy new facility, pointing out his favourite features.
Eventually visitors who arrive at the school's two main entrances will be able to find their way around using two touch-screen monitors that will display 3-D renderings of the buildings.
With a couple of touches, the system will tell them the fastest way to get to where they want to go.
That's important because it won't just be students using the building.
Designed to be a community hub, the facility is really three parts in one.
Seventy per cent of the threestorey building is CSS, 15 per cent will house Fraser Valley Distance Education School and another 15 per cent will be occupied by a
Neighbourhood Learning Centre (NLC) that will include a daycare as well as offices for Chilliwack Community Services, the Ministry of Children and Family Development, the YMCA and more.
But community groups will also be able book many facilities in CSS proper, including a computer lab, an aboriginal space, a multipurpose room, the gymnasiums and more.
"This school will be used much more than just the school day," Jones said.
When FVDES and the Neighbourhood Learning Centre open their doors sometime in January, Jones estimates 200 people will work in the building.
And at 20,000 square metres, it will be B.C.'s biggest school, according to School District No. 33 facilities director Dale Churchill. The three-storey facility sits on the north side of the school's state-of-Texasshaped lot and faces Yale Road and future parking spots, bus and drop-off lanes, bus shelters, bike shelters, basketball courts and tennis courts.
Coming through the front doors, visitors find an aboriginal cultural centre to their left, distinguished by a feature cedar wall and brightly coloured totem pole first carved by George Price in 1999 and refurbished by Chehalis's Francis Horne Sr. over the summer.
"We really want to foster that connection to our aboriginal community," Jones said. "That's why it's right at the front door."
To the right of the school's front doors is the main gym, visible through a wall of glass three storeys high, and straight ahead is a 600-square-metre cafeteria/multipurpose area that runs the width of the school and opens into a double-high wooden ceiling with exposed wooden trusses.
To preserve the culture of ad hoc lunchtime concerts that used to be staged on the landing of the old school's lobby, the new multipurpose room features a "Murphy bed" stage that folds up into the wall with the push of a button.
At the north end of the multipurpose room is a two-storey glass wall facing north and overlooking a new track and lit artificial turf field, which is under construction.
Architecturally, though, the crown jewel of the new building is the library.
On the second floor, it features a double-high, wooden ceiling with exposed wooden trusses and a full-glass wall facing the mountains to the south.
"This is the heart and soul of the building," Jones said.
Besides looking pretty, the new building will also enhance programs for CSS students.
Along with a shiny new large gym the same size as the old one, P.E. will get an extra 550-square-metre small gym along with the new turf field.
Drama gets a new, twostorey, 150-seat drama space with pullout bleachers.
And the culinary arts students get a new state-ofthe-art teaching kitchen along with a training hall that can be booked for outside events and catered by CSS students.
"I'm sure this would be the envy of any chef to get into this kitchen," Jones said.
CSS students will start the school year with an assembly in the new school Tuesday.
Members of the general public will have to wait until the building is finished in January for an official opportunity to take a peek, but Jones said the school won't be turning occasional looky-loos away.
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