THE LAST twelve months have seen some massive changes at Lerwick's Lower Staney Hill area as the new Anderson High School and its 100-bed halls of residence begin to take shape.
As the 140-150 workers building the school head off for a well-deserved Christmas and New Year's break, it is a good time to have a look around the two buildings and see how the £55.75 million project is progressing.
Morrison Construction's project director Mark Clarke is upbeat, confirming that both buildings are effectively wind and watertight and that internal finishing work is now well under way.
The lead contractor follows a "top-down" strategy in constructing the school and hostel, meaning that the top floors are the first to be completed. Once the ground floor is reached everybody will "work towards the front door".
"You are actually pushing everybody out the building as you go. We are following that plan and the aim is to be there by September 2017," Clarke explained.
The new 1,180-pupil high school is majority funded by the Scottish Futures Trust with Shetland Islands Council contributing £18.85 million, around a third of the overall investment.
While the council is the client that will eventually use the school, it is being built by Hub North, a company formed to deliver publicly-owned buildings such as schools and hospitals in the north of Scotland.
Conducting a tour of the buildings just before Christmas, Clarke stated: "The school and halls are on programme, which at this stage means that both envelopes of the buildings are very close to being complete.
"That gives us weather seal from ground floor up to third floor in the school and second floor in the halls, and means that we can work internally in both buildings.
"In the school the third and second floor are nearly complete in terms of drylining, the first floor is getting there, while the ground floor is the least evolved but it is already starting to appear in its final form.
"In the halls the drylining to walls and ceilings on the second floor is complete and we are doing the taping and filling in preparation for painting. In the first floor again, drylining is complete and taping and filling is about to begin."
On the outside, the school grounds are also gradually emerging: the main road into the site from the new roundabout is almost complete, car and bus parking areas are in place and part of the landscaping work is under way. Some of the final grass seeding has also been done.
Once work on the site commences again after the Christmas break on 9 January, the team has another eight months to complete the project.
The top-down strategy means that the fitting of classrooms' smart boards, control panels, shelving and cupboard space can get underway as early as February following first paint coats, while on the ground floor of both buildings the drylining continues.
"The whole building will evolve in such a way that you can at some point, possibly in April/May time, almost lock off the second floor of the halls and the third floor of the school, because they should be close to a completed stage," he explained.
"There are relatively few steps to go before we are getting to completion. It will still take eight months, but we are in a good place and there is time to get that work done."
And then there is, of course, the time for commissioning and snagging to ensure all the services such as district heating, communication links and all the other vital services do what they are supposed to before the completed project can be handed over.
"All of that is on plan at the moment, and our objective is to try to get it as near to the completed stage as soon as we can to get into the commissioning and snagging phase as early as we can," Clarke said.
He is encouraged by the "positivity and enthusiasm" that there is about the school project - not just within the council, but across the whole community.