COLUMBIA — With eyes toward the unfinished ceilings of Battle High School, Kim Presko, the school's first principal, smiles as she looks around at the progress that's already been made.
"Every time I'm here, there's something new that you weren't expecting," she said.
Walking around the unfinished building, Presko points out newly found shortcuts and windows throughout the school where she will be able to watch sporting events in case of rain.
The windows in the school's cafeteria overlooking the football field were a student suggestion, which were later implemented into the school's plans.
"The original designs from the architects didn't have these windows," Presko said, motioning toward the wall of windows. "This is something the kids wanted."
The Battle project, budgeted at $75 million, is "sitting pretty good right now budget-wise," according to Columbia Public Schools Deputy Superintendent Nick Boren.
Construction of the school in northeast Columbia is on track to be completed by March 1, Boren said.
"As of the beginning of June, Battle was about 81 percent completed," he said. "Now we're at about mid 80s."
In March, once the building is deemed safe for visitors, students and their families will be able to tour Battle before the start of school.
"Our goal is to get parents and the community out to that building as soon as we can," Presko said.
In the meantime, Presko sends weekly or biweekly newsletters to the parents of incoming students. Newsletters often include photos taken from her iPhone during her visits to the school and updates on the progress of construction.
Presko is eager to meet and get to know the school's incoming students and plans are in place to meet with the high school's first set of students four times, about once each quarter.
She hopes to find out what students are interested in, help them sign up for classes and discuss what they hope to see at Battle.
Students will also be encouraged to think about life after high school by developing four year plans. Presko intends to host focus groups to learn what students want out of their high school experience.
"Our plan is to really get the kids involved in the decisions that are made," she said.
For its first year, Battle plans to welcome 1,100 students from grades nine through 11. The school plans to have about 1,500 students enrolled for its second year, which will include grades nine through 12.
The high school will offer summer school classes in 2013. Extracurricular camps, such as band camp, will also take place during that summer.
Before classes can begin, however, there are many miscellaneous tasks that need to be completed, Boren said.
Finishing work, such as installation of wood floors in the gymnasium and tile in the hallways, still needs to be accomplished. Technology, furniture and equipment will need to be ordered before the start of summer school classes, Boren said.
Presko sees summer school classes and summer camps as opportunities for both students and teachers to get better acquainted with the building and each other.
"The more people that know their way around the first day, the better," she said.
Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.