Eastside student Bailey Martin is expecting the new school year to be a good one. Stephen Igo photo.
COEBURN — Fifteen-year-old Bailey Martin of Coeburn provided a bright and promising summation of her first day back at school on Thursday.
“It’s going to be a really, really good year,” declared the Eastside High School student just before she entered her not-quite-finished but strikingly remodeled school.
Eastside High School Principal Danny Lee was out in front of the newly renovated facility greeting students and barking directives, throwing in a bit of traffic cop and wet straw lawn monitor along with a heap of Welcome Wagonmaster into the mix.
Last school year, Eastside students and teachers were housed at St. Paul’s closed high school facilities while construction crews descended on the former Coeburn High School building to work their $8.5 million worth of magic. The transformation of the old facility won’t be totally complete until around the middle of next month, but Eastside’s faithful swarmed back to their true school on Thursday eager to settle in.
“We’ve had a ton of people working. We finished up just before 11:30 last night with final cleaning and doing whatever we could to get everything as ready as could be for today,” Lee said. “We had the superintendent and his wife here, just everybody working. All of our custodial staff, our (school division) maintenance people, and a cleaning crew besides.”
Eastside’s brand new grand entry, a couple of other entry areas and the student commons area were still off limits while construction crews carried on, but they are expected to be open next week, Lee said. The new science wing won’t be available for use until next month when officials plan a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony.
“But all of our classrooms are ready. They are fully functional and as ready as we can get ’em to this point,” he said.
“It’s just good to be back, that’s for sure. We give our thanks to the St. Paul community for all they did for us while we were there. Their help and assistance assured us a very successful year last year and allowed us to get this project 90 percent completed. But it’s good to be back into a facility that our students and staff can be proud of.”
Jared Blevins and Kevin Beck, both 15-year-old sophomores, pored over and compared their class schedules while taking in their somewhat familiar but new surroundings. Blevins was telling his pal that “hopefully, we’ll be able to find everything” while Beck offered that “the gym should be cool.”
Their fresh digs at Eastside are “a whole lot bigger than at St. Paul,” Beck said. “That was just real small down there.” Blevins said he attended Tuesday’s orientation “and I thought everything I was seeing here was cool,” while Beck added, “It’s really nice, and it’s really different.”
A beaming Eastside marketing teacher Deandra Jones offered more exuberant superlatives.
“I think it’s awesome,” she said. “I’ve said before today, ‘We’re living a teacher’s dream’ with everything new. A new everything! Just everything! Up to date and, well, it’s awesome! It’s not often teachers get all new stuff, you know.”
Karen Burke, an Eastside 11th-grade English teacher, said everyone has been looking forward to returning to their true home.
“We’re very excited. Students, teachers, just everybody,” she said. “We have been a little disheveled for the last couple of years, getting displaced and moving twice and all that, but we’re happy to be back and we’re ready to get back into a routine.”
Visual Arts teacher Katie Jessee said the new facilities are “quite an improvement. I love it. With all the renovations they did, every teacher should be happy. And it’s just so very wonderful to be back, finally.”
The schools superintendent, having spent a late night helping with last-minute cleaning chores and what-not the night before, observed opening day goings-on at Eastside and said the general tone on Thursday was that “everyone” in the county is excited about opening day, wherever they go to school.
With some work still under way at Eastside, Perry said “there are a few things of inconvenience while the finishing up work continues, but nothing that affects safety.”
Besides classrooms, equipment and nearly complete academic areas, his top priority to open Eastside by opening day revolved around safety, he said.