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Lakeland open house: Families invited to see new elementary for first time

WILLMAR -- The completed Lakeland Elementary School hosted its first open house Thursday, when students and staff were able to bring their families in to have a look around.

Erica Dischino / TribuneLorrie Torres, right, special education paraprofessional educator, and her daughter Lilliana Briones walk Thursday evening through the hallway of Lakeland Elementary School at the open house for the new Willmar school. Briones, who is in kindergarten, will be attending Lakeland in January and her mother will be working there too. A public open house will be held in January.
Erica Dischino / Tribune Lorrie Torres, right, special education paraprofessional educator, and her daughter Lilliana Briones walk Thursday evening through the hallway of Lakeland Elementary School at the open house for the new Willmar school. Briones, who is in kindergarten, will be attending Lakeland in January and her mother will be working there too. A public open house will be held in January.

WILLMAR - The completed Lakeland Elementary School hosted its first open house Thursday, when students and staff were able to bring their families in to have a look around.

Teachers finished moving into their new classrooms Thursday, and children had toured the building with their teachers earlier in the week. They will have the same teachers in Lakeland as they had at either Roosevelt or Kennedy schools.

Principal Gretchen Baumgarn, Assistant Principal Melissa Wilson and Superintendent Jeff Holm were there to greet families to the open house. Staff members handed out maps of the school and tacos in a bag were served in the cafeteria, which features a wall full of windows.

The $27-million building is the largest project in a $52.35-million building program approved in 2015. Construction for the elementary school started in June 2016.

An open house for the public will be held in January.

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"It's a very nice building," said Rosa Garcia, touring the school with her daughters, Naomi, 6, and Miranda, 9. Naomi showed her mother her seat in teacher Cynthia Cole's first-grade classroom, then they were on the way to Miranda's fourth-grade classroom.

Cole said she was excited for the move, too. "It's going to be fun," she said. "It's nice to be here."

Some finishing touches remain. Custodians will shut down the school starting today to clean and wax the floors. Final finishing on the gym floor will also be completed.

Cole and first-grade teacher Emily Streich said they liked the new, flexible furniture in their classrooms. For each grade, classrooms open onto a collaborative area with flexible tables and chairs which can be used for small group study or for activities involving more than one class. Most classrooms have large folding glass doors that open to the collaborative space.

"The first-graders can interact with other first-graders more than they have been," Streich said, adding that would be good for them.

In the kindergarten rooms, Elise Molden, a first-year teacher, said she was excited to be in the new building. Her classroom at Lakeland is much bigger than her room at Roosevelt, she said.

"There's more space for them to move around," she said. "We're going to have lots of fun." Jessica Schneider, another kindergarten teacher, said she was pleased with the larger room and the smart TVs in the classrooms.

'It's beautiful," said Kim Canion, parent of kindergartener Jordan, 6.

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Jordan said he liked the new monkey bars and that everything was new and exciting.

"It's a little overwhelming at first," said dad, Matt Canion. "The most important thing will be getting them into a new routine."

Jen Otto, another kindergarten teacher, talked about the excitement of opening a new school. "The whole building, it's so bright and gorgeous," she said.

In 42 years in the newspaper industry, Linda Vanderwerf has worked at several daily newspapers in Minnesota, including the Mesabi Daily News, now called the Mesabi Tribune in Virginia. Previously, she worked for the Las Cruces Sun-News in New Mexico and the Rapid City Journal in the Black Hills of South Dakota. She has been a reporter at the West Central Tribune for nearly 27 years.

Vanderwerf can be reached at email: lvanderwerf@wctrib.com or phone 320-214-4340
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