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New Cloquet Middle School open for business this week

The Lumberjack logo outside the gym at the new Cloquet Middle School, seen late last month, needed a few more polishes before students start pouring through the doors and gawking at their new school. (Jana Peterson / Pine Journal)1 / 5
There are different heights and styles of desks in this classroom at the new Cloquet Middle School. The variety will make it possible for every student — no matter how tall or short — to see the teacher and the smartboard at the front of the room, and the desks can easily be adapted to different seating arrangements. (Jana Peterson / Pine Journal)2 / 5
The swimming pool at the new Cloquet Middle School is the same length as the old swimming pool, but has two additional lanes. A long handicapped-accessible ramp glides down one side of the pool, and there is seating for about 400 on the poolside bleachers. The deep end — where there are diving boards and diving wells — is about 13 feet deep. In addition to a boys and girls locker room, there is a family locker room just down the hallway. (Jana Peterson / Pine Journal)3 / 5
Finishing touches were being made to the new Cloquet Middle School last week, ahead of the start of classes on Wednesday. (Jana Peterson / Pine Journal)4 / 5
A moving truck was parked outside the old Cloquet Middle School on many mornings over the summer, including last week, to bring equipment to the new school. (Jana Peterson / Pine Journal)5 / 5

Some of last year's Cloquet Middle School sixth-graders wrote tongue-in-cheek essays about what features they would like to see in a new middle school, and one of the most common requests was for an escalator.

"They said teachers would find 'fewer sixth-graders passed out on the stairs,' with an escalator," said Nicole Vegar, who does reading and math interventions for the sixth grade. She explained that many of the sixth-graders would have classes on the third floor but lockers on the first floor at the old middle school. "I used to lose kids for five minutes sometimes when they forgot something in their locker — and it actually may have taken that long."

Travel time between classrooms and lockers won't be an issue in the new middle school building, as each of the four grades is built in its own pod, with classrooms encircling the lockers and a common-learning area. There are inside windows in each classroom, so teachers can watch students go to their lockers if needed.

Students head back to school Wednesday in Cloquet. While middle school students will relocate to a new school, students in other Cloquet schools also will find upgrades and changes — work completed in the wake of a bond referendum passed by voters in 2015. Both elementary schools and Cloquet High School got new, more secure entrances. Early Childhood Family Education program is now housed in a new wing on the west side of Churchill Elementary. The high school's media center was remodeled.

But the flagship project of them all is certainly the new $40 million middle school.

While teachers are excited with their new digs, they appreciate the thoughtful design as much as the newness of the school.

"We're excited to be part of a team instead of off down an isolated hallway," said special education teacher Tristy Yorston.

And the students? Well, it gives them another reason to look forward to the start of a new school year.

Grand opening

The new Cloquet Middle School grand opening and community tours will be held from 6-9 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 14.