Two newly rebuilt schools will open Sept. 3

The first day of school is right around the corner — and an early corner at that.

Federal Way Public Schools are starting before Labor Day this year, on Sept. 3. Students will go to school for that Thursday and Friday, then return on Tuesday after the holiday.

The early deadline also puts construction companies on a tight schedule as two newly built elementary schools, Valhalla and Panther Lake, will open their doors on the first day.

Construction went well over the summer, the district said, and both projects are still under budget and ahead of schedule.

The new schools mean students at the elementary schools can look forward to bright and well-lighted classrooms that include large windows and radiant heat along with rooms that are in clusters so teachers can do more work together.

Part of the exterior walls will be what is known as a structural polycarbonate panel, which is a partly translucent panel that will allow more light, even through the solid walls. The architect’s project manager described it being lightweight and strong but placing minimal loads on the structure.

There will be plenty of new technology at the new schools, including fiber optics. At the old Valhalla, the fuse would often blow when teachers used the copy machine.

There was also some new design elements planned into these new schools, including what the district is calling 10-, 20- and 30-year walls.

“We learned from Sequoyah and Todd Beamer,” spokeswoman Diane Turner said. “The walls are moveable and adjustable. They could be reconfigured with light construction.”

There are still some small things that will be left to do, even after the first bell rings, including many finishing touches and a major redo.

At Valhalla the exterior paint, which caused a hullabaloo with neighbors, will be repainted after the rest of the construction is finished and after school starts.

Currently the large wall has been reprimed and is a light gray color. An earlier plan given to the school board would repaint the wall purple, but a much lighter shade.