Published April 19. 2013 4:00AM Updated April 20. 2013 12:25AM
Waterford - Inside Christopher Cassidy's Drafting 1 class Thursday, students sat quietly at their desks, focused on their work, compass in hand and erasing shield in the other.
Popular songs by the Dave Matthews Band and Mumford and Sons played softly over the surround-sound speakers, which are installed in every room.
Life is good at the brand-new, technologically advanced Waterford High School.
As students in Ian Cheney's ninth-grade ancient history class settled in to write an essay, he selected Beethoven's Emperor Concerto for them to listen to.
The music bounced through the air.
"I play classical music just about every class, I like the atmosphere it sets for the class," Cheney said. "They don't listen to classical outside of school on their own, so it's good to diversify. Now, it's part of everything we do. They complained to me the first week, but I think they like it now."
After years of working on design and layout concepts, scrapping one idea and emerging with another and searching for the perfect color palette, Principal Donald Macrino is proud of the final product.
"It really is such a nice place, it's so pleasant," he said.
Construction on the $67 million school started in December 2010. In the coming weeks, demolition will begin on the two classrooms that connect the old building to the new, Macrino said. Those will then be sealed off, and this summer, abatement and demolition work will begin on the rest of the old school.
On Saturday, the high school will be open to the public for the first time as it celebrates its grand opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony beginning at 9 a.m.
The school now boasts free WiFi throughout the building, a much-appreciated touch, junior JJ Crowley said.
Students are able to connect their wireless devices such as iPods or iPhones to the school's network. And soon, students will be able to bring and use their own laptops.
"We built the school for technology that hasn't been designed yet, to support in a wireless way what's to come," Macrino said. "I think it's time we've turned schools into something more than factories."
Teachers are also joining in on the fun, learning how to navigate the many uses of the new interactive Promethean whiteboards in every classroom.
The boards operate exactly like a large touch-screen device, and teachers can use them in a multitude of ways. Each board also is equipped with a camera so that in the future, students will be able to visit classrooms around the world.
As a student, Crowley said he appreciates the Promethean's many uses.
"If you're home sick from school, the teachers can post notes on the website for you to see, like you're there in class," Crowley said. "They can also keep notes on the board during class without having to erase them to put something else up, which helps."
There are also no desks in the building. They're all tables that can be reconfigured to whatever classroom setup a teacher wants, Macrino said.
Running late for class and need to print an online homework assignment that the teacher plans to collect in the next five minutes? No sweat. Find one of the 10 FollowMe printers located throughout the school, swipe a student ID over a card reader and have the assignment printed instantly. Students who either forgot their ID card or don't feel like shuffling through their backpack to find it can also key in their identification number on a keypad next to the card reader.
"Every ID has a QR code on it. It's nice because you're actually using your ID for something rather than just having it around," Mady LeBeau, a senior, said Thursday morning.
Students who are tardy to school can enter the main office, swipe their ID card and receive a printed hall pass to their next class without waiting for a secretary to help them, LeBeau said.
Their IDs are also used in the lunchroom as a credit card for their lunch accounts.
Macrino said having 10 FollowMe printers is "far more economical" than installing and paying for ink cartridges for individual printers in every classroom.
New windows in the building have sensors so that the air conditioning or heating will shut off in the classroom if a teacher or student opens a window. CO2 sensors have been installed in each classroom to regulate air flow and will push filtered air into the classroom when elevated CO2 levels trigger the sensor.
Urinals only use one pint of water instead of an entire gallon to flush, and the whole school relies on geothermal heating and cooling units instead of oil.
Jacob Peabody, a junior, said being inside the new school makes him feel better about being a student.
"There was no climate control in the other school, so in the summer it would be really hot in the classrooms," he said. "This school is so much cleaner and nicer; there's no bad smell, and there are two sets of bathrooms on each floor, which is so much better than walking five minutes down the hallway."