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Excitement builds for new middle school

The new three-station gymnasium will host varsity basketball and volleyball games because of its larger seating capacity and other features. Tyler Northey/Pine Journal1 / 4
Each grade (5-8) in the academic wing of the new middle school has its own square of classrooms, and will move between those throughout the day. The classrooms surround the lockers and common area. Tyler Northey/Pine Journal2 / 4
The entrance to the new Cloquet Middle School is nearly complete. Construction still has a ways to go, but the district is assured the project remains on schedule for students to come in the fall. Jamie Lund/Pine Journal3 / 4
The new eight-lane swimming pool is set to be filled with water Aug. 7. A long handicapped accessible ramp glides down one side of the swimming pool, which has seating for approximately 400 on the poolside bleachers. The deep end — where there will be diving wells — is about 13 feet deep. Tyler Northey/Pine Journal4 / 4

Cloquet Middle School students just might be wishing summer would end a little sooner, just so they could see the inside of their brand new school.

Like Presley Torrance.

"I'm excited to go to the new middle school to meet new people, meet new teachers, and see what the school will look like," said Torrance, a former Carlton student who will start the sixth grade at Cloquet this year.

The inside of the new Cloquet Middle School has been a hive of activity over the last couple months. Construction still has a ways to go, but the district is assured the project remains on schedule for students to come in the fall.

The safety features of the new school are a big change from the previous school. This location will funnel all traffic through the front office after the students are inside in the morning. All visitors will have to check in before getting inside, which was not a possibility in the old building. There are also 56 security cameras to be placed both inside and outside the school.

In addition, the whole school can be locked down from the main office. Closing off sections like this will not only protect students from potential intruders, but also allow the community to have access to certain sections of the building after school hours.

"We built [this school] with the idea of growth," CMS Principal Tom Brenner said.

When it comes to growth, the school has already had some additional expansions that were not in the original plans. Brenner explained that the district decided to build eight extra classrooms after they came in under budget.

With class sizes expected to be 23-27 kids per room, the extra classrooms will be needed. The district is constantly growing, and there's still the possibility of consolidating with other area schools in the future. The school will also include fifth-grade students this year, a change from the more recent past.

"We're growing as we speak," Brenner said, noting that there is talk of closing down open enrollment due to large numbers of students.

In addition to students, the new building has been built with community use in mind. The pool (set to be filled with water Aug. 7) has several family changing rooms in addition to the boys and girls locker rooms. The cafeteria will be set with sports flooring so it can be used for other activities when the lunch hour is over. The new gym will host varsity games next year, seats more people and is decorated in purple and white for school pride.

The school is also giving special needs students the opportunity to move with their fellow classmates. In the past, severely disabled students would go from the elementary school to the high school. Now, the middle school has an intermediate set of classrooms for these students, each outfitted with its own bathroom, washer and dryer, and the latest technology for learning.

When it comes to the academic wing, the school is being built in four pods of 10 classrooms. This means that each grade (5-8) has its own square of classrooms, and will move between those throughout the day. Upstairs hosts the fifth- and sixth-grade rooms, while downstairs will be for the seventh and eighth grades. The classrooms surround the lockers and common area.

These features were all put in place with student, staff, and community input.

"Input from the community came on the front end," Brenner said. "We had several meetings with the community before the referendum to see what they would be willing to support."

After that, Brenner worked with an architect to look at different middle schools and get ideas. From there, they had meetings with the school's staff and student focus groups to narrow down how they wanted the new school to be. All the feedback is now boiling down to the final product: a bigger, better building.

Although a lot more work needs to be done, especially in the wing housing the large music, art, and industrial tech classrooms, the school will come together in the next month and students will be walking the halls soon, leaving their mark as a new era begins for the Cloquet School District.

"It's been a massive undertaking," Brenner said. "It's been amazing to watch the community come together to get the referendum passed. [Now] I'm happy the building part is almost over, and the community can come see."

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