PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) – Bay High School officially has a shiny new facility after years of rebuilding after Hurricane Michael.

The grand opening of the St. Joe Community Foundation STEM building took place Tuesday.

The nearly $20 million facility has been patiently awaited for some time.

Bay High senior Wesley Littleton has spent almost his entire high school career dealing with hurricane rebuild as well as the pandemic and said he is thrilled this day has finally come.

“I’m in here for three periods a day so that’s just under half my day and I think that it just allows us to,” Littleton said. “I would almost look at it as a reward for the distance learning we did just a little bit ago.”

The foundation also donated more than $300,000 worth of medical equipment for the facility.

“Exposing students to the latest technology, the fields that are growing like medical healthcare is extremely important and exposing them early in the process. And this facility and this building is a tool to do that,” St. Joe President and CEO Jorge Gonzalez said.

Classrooms like the hood room allow chemistry students to individually work on experiments or learn through demonstration in the 360-degree hood.

“You learn by doing,” Bay High School Principal Billy May said. “I mean we can hear things and we learn a small portion but when we do things we learn at a much greater rate and a much higher retention rate. The doctor I have operating on me, I want him to have put his hands many many times on a mannequin, on equipment, and on people before he gets to me so hands-on is where it’s at and we want learning here at Bay High School to be hands-on.”

Bay High School also has a new fine arts auditorium in the works that is expected to open next year.