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Teachers unpacking in new Roosevelt kindergarten wing

Aundie Manuel, whose daughter, Kris Egge, is a kindergarten teacher in the Willmar School District, helps organize Kris' new classroom Monday at Roosevelt Elementary School in Willmar. A group of kindergarten teachers are moving into their new classrooms at Roosevelt this week. With the completion of the new Roosevelt wing, Lincoln Elementary School will lose its last students. The move is part of the district's budget-cutting strategy. Tribune photo by Gary Miller

In Chelsea Brown's classroom, the stability balls are already waiting under the tables for her kindergarten students to come to school on Jan. 4.

The tabletops, however, were covered with boxes stacked two and three deep on Monday afternoon. Of her 110 boxes, she said, she had about half of them unpacked.

Down the hall, Kris Egge was trying to decide what to keep in her classroom and what to pack away. "I have a lot," she said as she looked at the boxes. "Less than most (teachers), and it's still too much."

Egge, Brown and five other kindergarten teachers are moving into their new classrooms at Roosevelt Elementary this week.

Their students had Monday and today off from school so that their teachers could move from Lincoln Elementary to the new kindergarten wing at Roosevelt Elementary.

The new rooms are finished in neutral colors, and each has a wall of storage cabinets, including counters equipped with two sinks, one at a traditional height and one at child height.

With the completion of the Roosevelt wing, Lincoln will lose its last students. The move for the seven sections of kindergarten completes a reorganization of grades K-8 in the Willmar schools that left two former elementary buildings closed.

The last students at Lincoln were the seven sections of kindergarteners who will be attending Roosevelt when school reconvenes on Jan. 4.

"It was really nice to have a small group over there for a few months," said teacher Erika Johnson, "but it will be really nice to be over here and be part of the true community of the school."

Johnson is making her second move, because she moved to Lincoln from the former Jefferson Elementary last summer. "I weeded a lot of stuff out when I left Jefferson," she said. She still had a lot of boxes to unpack.

She said she likes her new classroom. She was still deciding how to organize things in her room on Monday and was hoping to have most of the work done by this afternoon.

The teachers said they planned to work hard so that they wouldn't have to work on their rooms during the holiday break. Egge said she planned to finish on Tuesday, because it wouldn't be fair to her three young children to interrupt the break. Brown said she might be in a little, and Johnson said she might, too.

"We'll do what we have to do," Johnson said.

Teacher Jen Otto said she wasn't too worried about getting some of the finishing touches done.

"On Jan. 4, we will be ready for them," she said.

If the room has an unfinished bulletin board, her students won't care, she added. In fact, they'll help her fill it.

"They're just going to be happy to be here with a brother, a cousin, a neighbor," she said. "That's what my class talked about. ... They were so excited last week."

Principal Patti Dols said she would be happy to have the last of the transition done, too.

"I am just really excited to have the entire student body and all the families in one place," Dols said.

While the teachers said they were excited to be at Roosevelt, they will miss Lincoln.

For Egge, it was particularly difficult. She taught at Lincoln for five years, and she was also a student there. "I'll miss Lincoln a lot," she said. "I was sad when I had to drive here today instead of Lincoln."

Dols said she is thankful for all the extra work custodians have done.

"You ask, and it's done," said Otto. "All the help's been appreciated."

Superintendent Jerry Kjergaard said he is pleased with the addition. With this last part of the move, parents will be able to have their children in one school from kindergarten through fifth grade.

Due to high moisture content, floor coverings couldn't be installed over the concrete floors yet, but that's the only part of the addition that won't be finished when the students arrive.

The concrete floors have been sealed, and they'll be ready for carpet and tile next summer. The teachers have bright blue room-size rugs to cover the sealed concrete floors.

The addition had a $1.4 million construction budget and was built without issuing bonds. The district used its annual allotment for capital improvements and delayed a number of smaller projects.

More than half the district's teachers moved to different classrooms last summer.

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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