When students arrive at the new Milagro Middle School building on Llano Street for the first day of school in mid-August, they will find that, unlike their previous school facilities, every classroom will have exterior windows.

And perhaps more importantly, the interiors of the classrooms, labs and workspaces are designed for modern education.

“It helps staff morale when the classrooms are set up in a way that works with education practices that have changed since the 1970s or 1980s,” said El Camino Real Academy Principal Jakob Lain, whose school recently finished its fifth year in a new building.

“For differentiated instruction, teachers need furniture, technology and spaces that are set up for that, instead of set up to have a teacher talking directly to students from the front,” he said.

While spending the past three school years in the aging Capshaw Middle School building built in the late-1970s on East Zia Road, Milagro principal Brenda Korting said science teachers shared labs, music teachers were provided portables and all sorts of student activities were forced to make creative use of gym and cafeteria space.

The new building, on the site of the former De Vargas Middle School, has six science labs, music and art-specific rooms, a theater, and a kitchen that will allow the school to expand its elective offerings to include culinary arts. There is also a new gymnasium and athletic field.

Korting said the nearly 40-year age difference between the Capshaw and Milagro buildings will mean an improved learning experience for a student body that arrives from 12 different elementary schools.

“All of our electives are going to be enhanced,” the principal said. “We actually have a stage.” From arts to physical education, she said, the new building will “make our jobs as teachers easier.”

Seventh grade science teacher Shannon Wittenburg, who previously shared lab space with five other teachers but will now have her own, sees the upgrade as something that will help motivate students.

“The kids are not dumb, they know where they’re going to school,” Wittenburg said. “They can see the facilities. So while the actual building doesn’t make an education, a nice building can really make students feel valued.”

Romero said Milagro, which had 528 seventh and eighth graders last school year, will have 117,600 square feet in a building that features LED lights, geothermal heating and cooling, and rainwater collection. These will lower operational costs.

Romero said the project had a budget of $30.3 million and most of the work was done by general contractor Bradley Stamm.

“We used every last bit of that budget,” Romero said. “We’ve got a few sidewalks to finish and a little flooring, but it’s pretty much ready to go.”

Correction: This story has been amended to reflect the following correction: An earlier version incorrectly reported that Jaynes Corps. was the general contractor for the Milagro Middle School project. The contractor was Bradley Stamm.