Despite the exposed insulation, despite the vodka bottles and glass strewn outside on the steps and in the grass, despite the broken hallway gates -- Calverton Middle School opened yesterday.
What the school lacked in physical readiness, its staff tried to make up for with a pioneering spirit and warmth for the 1,270 students expected to arrive, new Principal Joseph Heaney said.
Many who arrived immediately became lost. They didn't remember the instructions mailed home: Each grade level would enter the building from a different door and spend its day in separate wings of the sprawling building. But before long, they got the hang of it.
The first-day kinks were of the kind most schools weather. A few children seemed oddly far from their home neighborhoods -- secretary Annie Berry summoned a school bus for a tot who had wandered away from a nearby elementary school.
But Calverton isn't most schools. It is one of five in the city told to shape up academically or be taken from city control by the state. It is under scrutiny, with a new principal and 20 new teachers out of a staff of 43.
Yesterday, during an after-school inspection of the building, Mr. Heaney pointed out repairs and cleaning that were incomplete despite school system promises of help. The floors looked clean and the rooms, while institutionally drab, workable. Unlike in elementary schools, most decorations were spare. The bulletin boards outside the principal's office were bare.
But there is room for hope.
"I'm going to push and push until I get what the school needs," Mr. Heaney said.