When Parker Hendsbee walked through the doors of Chilliwack Secondary for the first time, it was as though he had been dropped into Oz.
But instead of Kansas, he was looking for Chilliwack.
“It was too much to take in at first,” he said of his new school Tuesday morning.
“It was surreal. I wondered if I was still in Chilliwack… the colours, the architecture, the design, it’s almost like this building doesn’t belong here.”
Hendsbee, a Grade 12 student, was amongst a select group of students who were granted a first tour of the new school last Wednesday.
He was blown away by the library, the double-wide stairwells, the brightness of the building, even the washrooms.
“They’re almost as nice as the Cactus Club bathrooms,” he said.
And on the first day of school, Tuesday morning, Hendsbee’s excitement had yet to wear off.
“Just look at this library,” he said, peering down into the window-lit room from one of the many viewing locations. “This is amazing.”
Compared to the old school’s cramped, dark space with “hospital lighting” and “prison-style” windows, the new space is definitely an improvement.
With its floor-to-ceiling windows, wood beams, and the double row of cozy, coffee-shop style chairs, “it actually makes me want to read again, makes me want to hang out here, do homework here.”
Grade 12 student Dupreez Smith was most enamored with the gym, pointing to the school’s new logo on the floor, the subtlety of the navy blue CSS etched across the royal blue bleachers, the high ceilings.
“It’s going to be a completely different atmosphere in here [game day],” said Smith, an avid basketball player. “School spirit is going to be through the roof.”
Just as exciting was the science wing’s super lab, a full-functioning lab with several work stations separate from the classroom space.
“It’s way above any other lab I’ve worked in,” said Smith, who plans on a career in medicine.
“Some of the teachers have said that even in university they didn’t have labs as nice as this one.”
But for Grade 12 student Evelyn Appleton, the expansiveness of the three-story building was somewhat intimidating, almost like the first day of middle school all over again.
“I didn’t know where anything was,” she said. “It’s huge. It’s overwhelming.”
And yet, as the three students, all in their last year of high school, walked through the wide hallways of their new school their eyes lit up at the size of their Olympic hand-me-down lockers; the environmentally friendly water fountains eliminating the need for plastic bottles; the acoustics in the stairwell; the lack of bottleneck congestion every which way they turned.
And already they were brainstorming ways of leaving a legacy as the first graduating class of the new building.
“We have a whole year to enjoy this place,” said Smith, “to put our stamp on it.”