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Photos: New Wakefield High School

(Updated on 8/15/13) Construction of the new Wakefield High School is wrapping up as school officials prepare for the first day of school on Sept. 3.

The $113 million project broke ground in 2011. It is expected to receive a LEED Gold certification for sustainability, thanks in part to having — when completed — 400 geothermal wells, each 500 feet deep, to heat and cool the school.

The main entrance of the school opens into what Project Manager Bill Herring calls the “town hall,” a large open space that will be filled with couches and chairs for students to congregate. Adjacent to the town hall is an outdoor courtyard, where students will be able to take their lunches or their work, since it will be WiFi enabled soon after the school year begins.

“It was important to have a heart of the building,” said Wakefield principal Chris Willmore, “and this is it.”

Wakefield High School’s soon-to-be-demolished old building housed students for 63 years, well past the building’s expected lifespan of 40 to 50 years, Herring said.

The new school will help accommodate continued growth of Arlington’s student population. Wakefield is expected to open with about 1,500 students this fall, while the building’s capacity is 1,960, with the possibility of expanding even more if necessary, Willmore said.

Most of the construction will be done before students arrive, Herring said, but the work won’t be entirely complete.

“The punch list will be small, but there will be things going on,” he said.

After the work on the new school is done, the demolition will begin, first on the old pool, then on the old building. Once demolition is complete, the school system will get to work renovating the bleachers and press box at its football stadium.

“The students are excited,” Willmore said. He’s also looking forward to giving teachers a formal tour on Monday. “I’ve put a lot of pictures on Twitter and they have gotten a lot of positive response.”

The three-story, 400,000-square-foot school will have 110 classrooms, each equipped with a Smartboard. The gymnasium will hold between 2,200 and 2,300 people, with windows overlooking it for standing room only crowds during basketball games and other events. The media center – which houses the library and computer labs – will have 23,500 print volumes in it, and the same amount of computers as the old building.

Although students won’t get the chance to see it in person, the roof is covered with solar panels and large tubes, which will be used to partially power the school and heat its water.

By the time Wakefield and the final phase of construction of Yorktown High School is complete, APS will have built three new high schools in the past decade, but Herring said few lessons have been able to be transferred from one school to the next.

“Each project has its own little idiosyncrasies,” he said. “But we’ve learned to take into consideration future changes in technology and in teaching.”

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