NORTH AUGUSTA — Skies were overcast Friday afternoon, but light still flooded the main stairwell in the new two-story classroom wing at North Augusta High School.

The addition's design also maximizes natural light in classrooms with big windows that look outside. Extra-wide hallways and multiple staircases will keep student traffic flowing between classes, and high ceilings add to the feeling of spaciousness.

Huge plate-glass windows framed with sleek steel on either side of the focal double staircase give the building a modern look, but accent floor tiles in gold – one of the school's colors – give a nod to tradition.

Aiken County School Board members, accompanied by Aiken County Public Schools officials, walked through the corridors and stopped in some of the 64 classrooms, equipped with smart boards and other technology, that soon will be filled with English, math and social studies students. The wing also includes computer labs.

Dr. Shawn Foster, the school district's chief officer of Operations and Student Services, said a definite date for students and teachers to move into the new facility has not been set but added he is looking at early to mid-February after final inspections are complete and the state Office of School Facilities has signed off on the project.

“That's our goal,” Foster said. “We're excited and ready to go.”

Foster said the classrooms are content specific and he and district officials sought input from teachers to make their classrooms conducive for the instruction of their particular subjects.

“Our goal is always to provide students a high quality educational experience, not only having a fantastic teacher standing in front of them but also having a facility that allows for flexibility – with flexible furniture, for example – and a structural layout that helps support the content,” Foster said. “The technology, too, enhances the educational experience.”

School Board Chairman Keith Liner called the building “spectacular.”

“It can only enhance the learning environment for our students – nice, wide hallways to provide open spaces and gathering areas for the students. The classrooms are well lit to encourage learning,” he said. “It's just an awesome building and a spectacular addition to what's already been built here.”

When open, the new wing will complete the second phase of construction at North Augusta High.

After students and teachers have settled into the addition, demolition will begin on the school's original building built in the late 1960s to make room for phase three, which will include a new gymnasium and fine arts wing.

The final phase of construction will renovate the school's auditorium and athletic fields.

When all construction is complete, North Augusta High will have been rebuilt at its original location.

Larry Wood covers education for the Aiken Standard.