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WDC starts new year in (near) new school

Teacher Mandy Gallant gathers resting towels and blankets from the kindergarten class Tuesday, Sept. 4 on the first day of school. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal1 / 3
Fourth graders walk a hallway along the gymnasium at the Wadena-Deer Creek Elementary School. While there are no longer skylights in the school, large windows allowed plenty of natural lighting despite a dark, rainy start to the new school year. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal2 / 3
Lily Wheeler talks about her school supplies with second-grade teacher Rachael Johnson on the first day of school in a recently remodeled classroom. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal3 / 3

New was the buzz word on the first day of school at Wadena-Deer Creek Elementary School.

New students met new teachers. They all took in the newly remodeled classrooms, bathrooms and cafeteria. New grass was starting to pop from fresh seeds scattered around the schools construction areas, thanks to some much welcome rain that fell over the weekend. More fell throughout the first day of school, causing students to rush inside to avoid soaking their new backpacks filled with new school supplies.

Taking in all the excitement of the first day was elementary principal Louis Rutten, who was busy running throughout the school making sure the needs were being met.

"We're very fortunate to have our custodial staff get us in the shape we are," Rutten said of the work that had to be done in the last week as construction crews exited and staff could return.

He and many other staff members were busy calming the nerves of numerous students overwhelmed with all the newness. In many cases a familiar face and a hand to hold was enough to get the students to where they needed to be and make sure the school year was off to the right start.

It was a tight window to get classrooms ready as construction was still wrapping up last week. Some construction was still occuring as workers could be seen from the roof of the school on opening day.

Title I teacher Carol Tornquist was one of the teachers still trying to set up her room Tuesday morning. Despite being in a rush to prepare for students, she said she was excited for the students to be able to come learn in an updated school.

"It feels brand new," she said.

Also checking in on the morning activities was WDC Superintendent Lee Westrum. Westrum looked over the cafeteria, with its now two lanes of traffic and new bathrooms. He was pleased to see more than half of the planned remodeling was complete, with the other to be completed next summer.

"We've got kids back in the building, it's good to see that instead of construction workers—even though I'm very appreciative of all the work they did, I'm glad they're gone and we've got students, teachers and everybody else back," Westrum said.

One of those students who was back in school again was fourth-grader Malakhi McManigle. Even though there was excitement around the remodeled rooms, the new heating, air and ventilation systems, he was just looking forward to a year of learning.

"I'm excited about math and social studies," he said.

While many parents came in to say goodbye to students in the classrooms and cafeteria, they can all come back for an open house from 4 to 7 p.m. Sept. 12 at the elementary school to enjoy refreshments and explore the improvements.