Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

School Ready -- Almost Final Touches Being Applied

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

School Ready -- Almost Final Touches Being Applied

Article excerpt

Landscaping was still lacking around the driveway and entrance to Bartram Trail High School as the first students arrived Monday. Workers were still checking out the lawn sprinklers and fire alarm system.

Inside, the octagonal courtyard remains off-limits as workers finish brick sidewalks and landscaping, while the gymnasium, music room and auditorium are weeks from completion.

But while the outside of the new $31 million school still needed work, classrooms were ready as an estimated 1,250 students arrived for their first day of classes at 8:30 a.m.

"It is closer to home, and there are less people," said junior Brian Snell, 16. "But it doesn't look ready."

"I thought it would be done," added freshman Kristin Chute.

And even though the Bartram Trail Bears lost their first football game to Baldwin High School the Friday before, 16-year-old player Gene Shell said he was "excited to start a new tradition."

"Just because we lost, that doesn't count," he said.

As for Bartram High School Principal Jim Springfield and his 85 employees -- 50 of them teachers -- he said he was "relaxed" about the first day, while teachers said they were upbeat even though it was hard getting the new campus ready.

"The air conditioning works, and we are happy," Springfield joked, then got serious, saying school officials haven't been as rushed as they appear.

"We feel like we are not ready because there are still construction workers around, but the fact is that we are really pretty ready. We have desks in the rooms," he said. "So I feel like I have every year I have opened a school. You still have a bunch of kids coming, most of whom you don't know."

St. Johns County officials built the high school because of population growth in the northwest part of the county and to ease overcrowding at Nease High School, the county's only other northern high school.

The result: a two-story, 1,500-student school with big administration and guidance offices, multiple computer and communications laboratories and classrooms. The food court offers hamburgers, chicken, Mexican food, salads, sandwiches and other popular meal deals. A library with planned coffee bar comes with a mural of William Bartram, the 17th-century explorer for whom the school is named.

To make sure the school was ready for Monday, work crews were tripled and contractors did double shifts seven days a week during the winter and spring. Still, three days before classes started, crews were planting palm trees and completing roofs, while others were making changes to the electrical systems inside. And books won't fill library shelves for a while.

"They are still processing them," Springfield said. "We know we will not have the media center for the first couple of weeks."

Whether the school's contractor, John Callahan and Sons, will face fines for not completing the school on time will be reviewed later, said David Toner, director of facilities for the St. …

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