The Minister of Education says the learning environment at Papamoa College will be "challenging" for teachers but it will reflect the style of 21st century learning.
Anne Tolley was in Tauranga on Friday visiting four schools, including Papamoa College, which is under construction.
She said the $27.7 million project had been pushed forward a year, on the back of the Government's economic stimulus.
It also reflected changing times in education and a new direction in student learning.
The Western Bay of Plenty's 10th secondary school will feature educational learning spaces currently only seen in a handful of New Zealand schools.
When completed next year, Papamoa College, on Tara Rd, will feature six open-space learning commons with no walls, creating an integrated learning environment, as opposed to individual classrooms.
Several specialist teachers will operate in the space, which will have break-out tutorial rooms. The buildings are designed to maximise natural light and flow of air and have high impact street presence.
The college land was purchased by the government in 1999 and is one of two new schools for Papamoa, with the $7.3 million Golden Sands School under construction in Golden Sands Drive. Both schools will open in February. Mrs Tolley agreed the concept of learning commons was controversial to some and said a "critical factor" of making it work would be staffing.
 "It is quite challenging but it's working in Albany Senior High in Auckland extremely well," she said.
"It's a 21st century learning environment and building on our New Zealand curriculum, which is a world leader in its thinking."
Each year the Ministry of Education builds five to seven new schools.
Mrs Tolley, who was accompanied on her visit to Papamoa by Bay of Plenty MP Tony Ryall, said she was impressed by what she saw.
She also visited Golden Sands School, Te Puke Primary School, which has just undergone a $700,000 upgrade, and Tahatai Coast School in Papamoa, which is the worst leaky school building in the country and is under repair.
Mrs Tolley said Tauranga was a "hot spot" for leaky schools and the government had committed funding to address the issue nationwide.
PAPAMOA COLLEGE
Full-sized gymnasium.
Theatre.
Dance studio.
Soundproof music rooms.
Learning spaces for technology.
Food and hard materials.
Two rugby fields.
Hard courts.
Library.
Space for future play areas.