The first phase of a $7.6 million renovation of Belfast Area High School is nearly finished. Students already are using a revamped cafeteria that opens into the central hallway, with a larger kitchen and new windows that let in the first natural light the space has seen.

The high school was built in 1964, and Principal Jeff Lovejoy said the south end of the building hasn't seen many upgrades in the years since. In early November, workers were putting the finishing touches on an overhauled pool, new locker rooms, and renovated classroom spaces for special education and home economics.

Getting to the pool previously required going through a labyrinth of locker rooms or leaving the building and re-entering from the outside. Today a central hallway, with entrances to locker rooms on either side, leads directly to the pool.

The locker rooms were reorganized with separate spaces for physical education classes, seasonal sports teams and swimmers, along with dedicated changing rooms for visiting sports officials, who previously had to change in the boys' locker rooms. Group showers have been replaced with individual stalls, perhaps in response to changing standards of modesty.

"The trend was just, kids stopped showering," Lovejoy said.

A new two-story wing at the south end of the building, now under construction, will house math classrooms on the upper floor and special education classroom on the ground floor. The wing is slated to be finished Dec. 17.

A new canopy at the entrance to the school has been put on hold, Lovejoy said, because it would require closing the main entrance. As a result, he said, parents and visitors might get the impression that the larger renovation project is stalled out, but work is continuing inside the school. In the meantime, the entrance vestibule has been bumped out to create a larger space that will have new security features.

In the final phase, a portion of the south end of the building will be separated — by replacing a door with a wall — and converted to adult education and a central office for Regional School Unit 71, which now operates from a separate building near the entrance to the school grounds on Waldo Avenue.