Although skies were dreary when Tri-City United Lonsdale Elementary opened its doors for a community tour, the building’s new features offered a bright contrast to the gloom outside.

The building’s new east addition, one of several projects made possible by a $22.1 million bond referendum the community passed in February 2018, was completed just before school started two weeks ago. Students have been utilizing the space since school resumed Sept. 3, but the tour gave community members a chance to see the school’s renovations.

Principal Mollie Meyer and Superintendent Teri Preisler offered tours to groups of about six at a time. Meyer said about 15 to 20 people visited the school in the first hour.

“I think folks are struck by how schools have changed,” said Meyer.

On the tours she gave, Meyer said visitors were excited to see the different dramatic play equipment, like kitchen and dress-up sets, in the kindergarten classrooms and the natural light streaming through the building’s new windows.

“I think they did an excellent job making it look like they planned it this way,” said Colleen Wondra, who taught at the district at the time when TCU Lonsdale was first built.

Wondra said she’s also happy to see TCU Lonsdale expand to sixth grade this year. The addition allowed for this expansion with kindergarten through third-grade in the east wing and the older grades grouped together elsewhere.

Jeanne Anderson, who also toured the school Thursday night, said she supports the way the different wings separate the older grades from the younger grades. She’s also in favor of the flexible seating options in the commons area and inside the classrooms.

A major piece of TCU Lonsdale is flexible seating, which allows students to choose chairs and desks that best suit their learning style. Since most of the new furniture is on wheels, teachers and students can scoot desks together to form tables or keep them separated.

“[Flexible seating options] especially give us a lot of choice with what we can do,” said Soren McNamara, a fifth-grader at TCU Lonsdale.

Sonya McNamara, Soren’s mom, said she loves the collaboration space TCU Lonsdale has implemented as well as the new white boards on the classroom walls. She’s also pleased to see the school added more preschool classrooms because when Soren was that age, she had to send him to preschool in Northfield because the TCU school district had limited space. Now, she’s thrilled to know her niece is attending preschool at TCU Lonsdale.

“I think the spaces are just super fresh and new,” said Krista Goettl, a member of the TCU School Board. “There’s nothing [worse than] going to a school that’s dark and dingy.”

Like TCU Lonsdale, Goettl said the TCU Le Center and TCU Montgomery facilities are also much brighter than before, impacting the mood of students and staff. Tours for these locations took place Sept. 16 and 17, and a tour of TCU High School is scheduled for Dec. 10.

Reporter Misty Schwab can be reached at 507-333-3135. Follow her on Twitter @APGmisty.

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