The Wilson Elementary School student body will be getting a bit more exercise this year.
That might have been the biggest takeaway Wednesday morning as hundreds of students toured the old Jefferson Elementary building – their home for the next school year while Wilson is being renovated.
“Wow,” exclaimed one boy as he fled from his parents toward a playground that seemed to stretch halfway to Manito Park.
He was joined by hundreds of classmates and their parents, who got a sneak preview of the building that for the next nine months will be known as Camp Wilson.
A near-perfect morning began with bus rides – a new experience for many kids at Wilson, because nearly everyone lives within a 1-mile walking distance of their usual school.
“We’re very excited,” said Mary Roberts, whose fourth-grade daughter Claire has ridden the bus only for field trips.
They joined other parents and children for the 2-mile bus ride. Along the way they passed their old school, where the tiny playground was filled with heavy equipment and large piles of dirt.
Soon they arrived the corner of 37th Avenue and Grand Boulevard, where the old building filled with anticipation.
Students, some wearing navy blue “Camp Wilson” T-shirts, fiddled with lockers while parents used maps to guide them through the school. Some commented on the classrooms, most of which are larger than those at Wilson.
Teachers – the same ones students have known for years – welcomed kids to their new digs.
“We’re just making it easier,” said first-grade teacher Alexis Padgham between hugs with returning students.
That was the theme – making things easier during the transition, which also includes a new principal in Ken Hermanson.
The principal at Longfellow Elementary the past two years, Hermanson welcomed families as they departed the buses on 37th Avenue.
Hermanson has been at Camp Wilson all summer overseeing progress at a building that’s been vacant since Franklin Elementary students returned to their renovated school in January.
“We’ve been trying to make it look like a building that hasn’t been shut down since January,” said Hermanson, who said custodians have often worked from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. to restore that first-day-of-school feel.
“The rooms are looking warm and welcoming,” said Hermanson, who also has been an administrator at Bemiss Elementary and Shaw Middle School.
So were the halls, where staff offered snacks and coffee along with flyers to join the school’s parent teacher group.
Karen McGann, standing in the hall with her first-grade son Grayden, said she was “very excited” about the lockers and the grass fields.
A year from now, they’ll return home to a renovated Wilson Elementary, where an $8.5 million addition and remodel began in June.
The 22,000-square-foot remodel will include the replacement of two existing classrooms and the addition of six new classrooms, as well as a gym expansion to include a stage, and the complete upgrade of the kitchen.
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