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KINDERGARTENER PEYTON ANDERSON and his dad, Mike, checked out his new locker at Lake Park-Audubon Elementary School during a back-to-school open house Wednesday afternoon in Audubon.1 / 3
the shiny new finish on the floor of the refurbished elementary gymnasium wowed visitors at Wednesday's open house.2 / 3
CONSTRUCTION on the new Lake Park-Audubon High School is well underway.3 / 3

There were smiles all around at the Lake Park-Audubon Elementary School open house Wednesday evening in Audubon.

Gasps of awe could be heard as the doors of the newly refurbished gymnasium were opened and the public got its first glimpse of the shiny new floor (in fact, they weren't able to walk on it because the final protective coating had yet to dry).

"It looks great, doesn't it?" said LP-A School Board member Bryan Anderson.

"It's fun to finally get to this point and see all the people walking through with smiles on their faces," he added.

"It's wonderful," said Sarah Vareberg as she filled out forms for her children, Isabel and Wyatt, who will be attending LP-A Elementary this fall.

"It's going to be so nice for the kids," she added. "There are so many new, different things they get to use, another computer lab... and the gym is just beautiful!"

"It's really neat," said Mike Anderson as he showed his son, Peyton, around his new kindergarten classroom and helped him check out his locker -- which Peyton thought was "pretty cool," his dad added.

"You can see that people are pretty excited to be coming in (to the school)," said LP-A Elementary Principal Sam Skaaland.

"The elementary always has a great turnout" for the back-to-school open house," said LP-A Superintendent Dale Hogie. "But everyone does seem to be especially excited this year -- there's a different level of enthusiasm when they walk through and see all the upgrades."

The reason for the excitement, of course, is that the elementary school facilities have just received a $3.5 million dollar facelift that included demolition of the oldest portion of the building, constructed in 1922, and erection of a new addition in its place.

Construction on the building upgrades began last fall and continued throughout the winter and summer.

Now, the project is essentially complete, though Skaaland said there were still "a couple of things to finish up" before classes begin on Tuesday.

"The parking lot is about a week behind (schedule)," he said. "Other than that, everything should be ready."

Next year, Hogie said, the excitement of having brand new facilities to enjoy will shift over to Lake Park.

The new high school building is expected to be open for classes at the start of the 2012-13 school year.

Construction crews are hard at work trying to get the exterior of the building completed before the chill of winter sets in, so work on the interior can continue through the school year.

On Thursday, a crew from Lako Drilling was on site, working on drilling holes for the new school's geothermal heating and cooling system.

As Lako Drilling employee Ethan Grove walked past the reporter taking photographs of the site, he stopped and said, "It's been a fun process, seeing this school take shape."

The $14 million new LP-A High School, located on the west edge of Lake Park, will house grades 7-12.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454