WHITE LAKE - For White Lake students, Monday is more than the beginning of the school year. It's the beginning of a new era.
As Superintendent Bob Schroeder strolls past each classroom, optimism and pride gleam through the freshly painted halls of the new $5,142,055 White Lake School District building.
"White Lake has always prided themselves on education, and we had an option to either grow or consolidate," Schroeder said Tuesday, sitting in his brand new office.
And grow the school did. Enrollment has been boosted to a total of 126 students, up 12 from the previous year's 114.
It's an understatement to say the student body and teachers were excited for new beginnings to fill the halls of the White Lake School District, as they helped move items to the new school on the last day of the 2017-18 school year.
"We even had board members helping move things to the new school. We had the entire building moved over to the new school in a half day," Schroeder added.
As an educator looking to build for the future, Schroeder emphasizes the importance of creating a healthy learning environment for students as young as preschool.
"That is where it all starts, and I am very proud to have preschool and the city day care in this new school," he added.
In a town with a total population of 372, Schroeder said day care providers are hard to come by, which prompted the school district to seek the city's approval for housing the city of White Lake's daycare.
The school is broken up into what Schroeder calls "wings," which separate grade levels. Kindergarten and day care share the same wing with first through fifth grade, while middle school and high school also share the same wing. The wings are located in the corners of the building. A weight room filled with updated equipment and band/choir room each have their own wing.
As Schroeder turns on the lights to show off the new gymnasium, a bold WiLdKat logo glows at center court. Billboards of proud Kimball/White Lake athletic sponsors line the south wall of the gymnasium that will soon draw KWL fans to the bleachers.
For high school athletics, White Lake co-ops with Kimball, forming the WiLdKats. Schroeder said both split practices and games 50/50, so student athletes and fans will have equal opportunity to experience the new gymnasium.
"If this doesn't get you excited for the upcoming athletic season, what does?" asks White Lake school board president Jim Munsen, walking across the new hardwood floor.
Of all the new additions, the boiler room that is home to the heating and cooling of the building sparked the most pride out of Munsen and Schroeder.
The heating, air, ventilation and cooling is far from an ordinary HVAC system, and Schroeder said the janitors of the school have an app on their computers, allowing them to monitor the heating and cooling of the building from outside the boiler room.
"It cost nearly half of the entire project to get this new HVAC system," Munsen said. "It produces propane heat and air-conditioned rooftops, to name of few other nice details of it."
Another point of pride are the LED lights, which helps the school be more energy efficient along with reducing electricity costs.
Puetz Corporation of Mitchell was the general contractor of the project, while WS Construction of Sioux Falls was the foreman company responsible for building the school. The project broke ground in March 2017, and reached its substantial completion date prior to the 2018 school year.
"WS went above and beyond while building the school. In fact, they had a guy that came back and hung up TVs," Munsen said.
While the new school has created a buzz throughout town, the project was nearly stopped in its tracks after a Legislative session in June of 2016 put a temporary hold on the building. The Legislative session prompted a district vote in which voters passed a $5.5 million bond to fund the project.
"The overwhelming support from the community helped make this school happen," Schroeder added.
As for the old White Lake school that was built in 1939, there will be an auction for the rest of the facility on Oct. 14. Schroeder said the school district will keep the lunchroom and gymnasium inside the old school building for tournaments and other events.
"It's going to be a memorable year here at the White Lake School District," Schroeder said.