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Lakeland Elementary opens today in Willmar

Erica Dischino / Tribune Fifth-grade student Natalie Santana unpacks her backpack during her tour of Lakeland Elementary School Dec. 20. 1 / 5
Erica Dischino / Tribune Teacher Kristy Gratton shows first-grade student Emaan Ali her new desk at Lakeland Elementary School at the open house for students and their families Dec. 21. 2 / 5
Erica Dischino / Tribune The Lakeland Elementary School gymnasium features a floor painted with cardinals, alphabet letters and numbers.3 / 5
Erica Dischino / Tribune A school bus parked outside of Lakeland Elementary School in Willmar drops off fifth grade students to tour their new school Dec. 20.4 / 5
Erica Dischino / Tribune Fifth-grade teacher Rachel Moorhouse introduces the new classroom to her students during their tour of Lakeland Elementary School Dec. 20.5 / 5

WILLMAR — Willmar's newest school opens for classes today

Students and teachers got to know Lakeland Elementary School in December when they moved school supplies, books and curriculum materials in before the holiday break.

Classes will begin at 8:30 a.m. this morning and end at 3:20 p.m.

The opening of the school could affect traffic in southeastern Willmar. Crossing guards will be stationed in the front of the school across Lakeland Drive from the YMCA and at the corner of Lakeland and Olena Avenue.

The building — housing students in prekindergarten through fifth grade — has new furniture throughout, along with new technology. Each room has a large smart TV. For each grade, classrooms are in a pod surrounding a collaborative area that can be used for small group or large group study.

The school's halls, commons area and gymnasium are decorated in shades of red, white, silver and black. Cardinals are painted on the floor of the gymnasium, along with numbers and the alphabet.

A public open house will be held later this month. An open house for the students and their families was held in December.

Lakeland, costing about $27 million, is the largest project in a $52.35 million construction program approved in 2015.

The building was originally scheduled to open last fall, but weather and construction delays led to the mid-year opening.

Lakeland was built to alleviate overcrowding at Roosevelt and Kennedy elementary schools. With fewer students in each, the district's elementary schools will have less crowded lunch periods and more suitable space for small-group study.

One of the next steps in the district's building program will be remodeling at Roosevelt and Kennedy to provide similar collaborative areas.

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

(320) 214-4340