Mt. Lebanon High School students have been looking at pretty much the same interior for more than eight decades.
On Tuesday, they'll catch their first glimpses of the school's transition into the future.
For students and staff, the start of the 2013-14 academic year marks the first tangible result of the $109 million renovation of the school. The sixth floor of the academic wing has been transformed and classrooms are ready.
"Those rooms are all bright and inviting," said Elaine Cappucci, school board president. "The kids will feel a certain energy that will be more conducive to learning ... having spaces that are cheerful and bright is going to make a big difference."
As a 1979 Mt. Lebanon graduate, and the mother of two graduates and a son who will be a junior this year, Ms. Cappucci is well aware of the difference between old and new. The classrooms feature a variety of colors that mark a departure from the standard beige; the hallways are illuminated by clear, bright light.
For now, that applies only to the sixth floor. Those below it still are much as they always were, with the exception of the fifth, which is stripped bare heading into the school year in preparation for its overhaul.
The process will continue downward until the project wraps up in 2015.
"As the new floors get completed, we move the kids and teachers," Superintendent Timothy Steinhauer said.
Eventually, they'll be moving into other new spaces, too.
While the renovated sixth floor is the only part of the project ready for the start of school, several other areas of the school are nearing completion for use before the end of the calendar year.
The fine arts theater, for example, has new seats for spectators who peer down onto an expansive stage. The space for performances, speakers and lectures has undergone measures to improve acoustics and now has an elevator for ease of access by members of the community.
The newly built science wing should be ready during the first semester, Mr. Steinhauer said. Among the features is a central chemical storage room with a dumbwaiter, so that materials for science classes don't need to be transported through hallways.
Off the science wing is a new enclosed bridge linking the academic areas to the new athletic building.
"We can control the flow and control the traffic," Mr. Steinhauer explained about the connection. "The bridge will be available for students to meet informally. It's a great view, with a lot of sunlight."
The athletic building will include a main gymnasium, two auxiliary gyms and what the superintendent called "one of the nicest swimming facilities in Western Pennsylvania."
The building's façade features masonry that was designed to resemble the original high school.
"That was a big push from the community," Mr. Steinhauer said. "[Residents] wanted to keep that historical look for the school."
One piece of history will remain firmly in place: the terrazzo floors from the 1920s have been spiffed up and are ready for many more decades of shoes.
"It's a durable surface that's better than anything we can put in," the superintendent explained.
Mt. Lebanon High School has been renovated or expanded five times, including the 1972 construction of what's known as Building C. That structure eventually will be demolished and tennis courts will take its place.
By that time, the finished product of the new, improved high school should be just around the corner.
"It's going to be a great place," Ms. Cappucci said, "and a much-needed change."
Harry Funk, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.