OGDEN -- One year ago at this time, Hughes Construction was putting the finishing touches on the complete remodel of Ben Lomond High School. And after the first year in the "new" school, there are nothing but smiles.
"It is just awesome," Principal Ben Smith said of the remodel.
Smith has noticed that not only did the building get a remodel, but the students, staff, teachers and community also did as well.
"The attitude is tremendous," he said. "The whole community has taken to being proud of having this facility here."
Before remodeling, the main entrance of the school was on Jackson Avenue, but Smith said no one really knew the location of the main entrance.
"The only way you really knew was because there was a small sign that said Ben Lomond High School," he said.
Now, the main entrance is on 9th Street and there is no question about it, Smith said.
He feels that change by itself has made a big difference and opened the doors to the changes inside.
The project started in 2006 after school district voters passed a bond issue that also helped fund renovations to Ogden High School and two new elementary schools.
Everything in the school is new except for the auditorium, shop area, pool and the gym, although the gym has been refurbished.
The process was difficult in that students were still attending the school while it was being rebuilt.
The district looked at building a new school on the same property while students attended the old school, but there wasn't enough space.
Students now have a commons area to meet with friends, and the school is divided into three learning communities. Each learning community has space at the end of the hall where teachers can collaborate or spend one-on-one time with students.
Smith said having that space to work freely has made a huge impact for teachers because collaboration is a big component of the teaching process at the school.
Large windows and plenty of space to move throughout the school have been big pluses for the school of about 1,000 students. Smith said the school was built to handle 1,100 to 1,200 students.
The remodeling process was unique in that the school never closed during the construction. School was always in session, which proved to be a bit of a challenge at times, but in the end, it was well worth the wait, Smith said.
Not only do students have fresh paint and new classrooms, but students also are enjoying the benefits of a $1 million technology grant that was awarded last year.
Smith said the district is still working to get in place all of the technology that came with that grant, but the impact on the school is incredible.
"It is huge, and it is going to continue to get better and better," he said.
Classrooms are equipped with inter-write boards where teachers have their computers on huge boards for the whole class to use. Some teachers can manipulate their boards with a hand-held device so they can use the computer while walking around the classroom as they teach.
Other classrooms have student responders, which are devices that allow students to answer a question on the spot and teachers and students see immediate results.
That has been successful because students can see how they are doing right away, Smith said.
Many classrooms have video equipment that allows students to shoot movies of projects ranging from math to English to theater.
It has been amazing to watch how the technology and new school itself have sent students' sense of self-worth soaring, Smith said.
"It's changed the climate here in general -- and not just the students," he said, adding that he has noticed a difference in the teachers and other staff members because they feel like they have more help to get students learning.
"It's been quite remarkable."
The school board agrees.
Board member Jennifer Zundel noticed the change immediately. She feels the students and teachers both "came to life" with the construction of the new building.
That feeling of pride from the newness of the school is catching on with all of the students, she said.
"They go to school feeling like the community supports them, wants the best for them and they're worth it," Zundel said.
It also helps that, last fall, the school and the board received the Mountain States Construction Silver Award for grades K-12, an architectural award recognizing the school's beauty.
That award hangs in the school's main hall so the community and students know they are entering an award-winning school.
Ben Lomond High School
• LOCATION: 1080 9th St., Ogden
• COST: $41,266,657.08 (cost of recently completed remodel)
• HISTORY: BLHS was constructed in 1951, with additions in 1959 and 1969. It was rebuilt while students attended classes and reopened in September 2010.
• SIZE: 291,400 square feet
• STUDENTS: 1,070; currently registering students
• STAFF: 63 teachers, 47 classified employees
• TIDBIT: BLHS was named for the mountain to the north by the Scottish immigrants to Utah. The school has one of the few Bagpipe and Drum Corps in the state.