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Roosevelt buddies welcome younger students

Dulce Montoya, 5, tosses a hoop over a steer-headed target Friday during the fall festival at Roosevelt Elementary School in Willmar. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

WILLMAR -- Brady Reigstad and Isis Acevedo worked side by side to color and cut out the pieces to make a jack o' lantern hand puppet out of a small paper bag.

Brady, 10, and Isis, 5, had just met. So had Natasha Ibarra, 11, and Grace Johnson, 6, who were making their own puppet on the other side of the table.

Nearby Grace Graves, 10, and Erin Roemeling, 5, made a paper doll puppet.

The fifth-graders in Eric Means' class met Susan Olson's kindergarten class Friday afternoon at Roosevelt Elementary School. The students paired off to work together and forge relationships that school leaders hope will continue when the kindergartners begin attending school at Roosevelt in a couple months.

Seven sections of kindergartners are going to school this fall in the former Lincoln Elementary School, now considered an extension of Roosevelt. When a new kindergarten addition is finished, the kindergarten sections will move to Roosevelt. The addition is scheduled to be finished in mid-December.

The opening of the addition will be the last move in a major reorganization of the district's elementary and middle school buildings.

On Friday, the kindergartners were introduced to older students who will be their buddies. Teachers in the third, fourth and fifth grades volunteered the students in their classes as buddies.

The fifth-graders were friendly and patient with their new young friends.

Brady said he liked having the younger kids there and working on the project with Isis. He has a younger sister and brother, he said, so he'd used to playing with younger kids. Natasha said she, too, has younger siblings and enjoyed the visit. Grace marveled at Erin's coloring skills.

Principal Patti Dols said she hopes the relationship between the younger and older students will grow over time.

Friday, they made craft projects together, but Dols hopes they will move beyond that. "Maybe they can become reading buddies or math buddies," she said.

The buddy relationship will provide "good character education" for the older students, too, she said.

The staff hopes that having an older buddy in the building will be helpful for the kindergartners when they move to a larger school, Dols said. "I know the older students are real excited, too."

They appear to be. "Hey, it's kindergartners," one boy exclaimed as Olson led her students down the hall at Roosevelt and crossed paths with a classroom of older students.

Students also went to the library for story time and attended a fall festival sponsored by the Roosevelt PTSA. On the way there, Olson stopped and showed her class the opening in the main hallway that will lead to the kindergarten wing.

At the fall festival, kids could try their hand a dozen carnival-type games. Each received a silver trick-or-treat bag and "won" a candy treat or a prize at each game. The prizes included pencils, erasers, small notebooks, stickers or small toys.

Kami Anez of the PTSA greeted each group and tried to keep things running smoothly around the room. The festival is aided by donations from businesses and lots of parent volunteer time, she said.

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

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