Principal's Picks: New Piedmont Elementary's top 5 features

The 450 or so students who will attend Piedmont Elementary, at 2827 Chambersburg Ave., this fall will encounter some surprises in their new school, including some very bouncy playground covering.

Cher Obst, principal of the new Piedmont Elementary school, stands near the stairwell leading from classrooms toward the gym and lunchroom. "I think the children will love the openness of the building," she said. (Bob King /

The 450 or so students who will attend Piedmont Elementary, at 2827 Chambersburg Ave., this fall will encounter some surprises in their new school, including some very bouncy playground covering.

Principal Cher Obst listed the playground among the five things she thinks students will enjoy the most. This story is the first in a series about what students might like at the six schools opening in Duluth this fall, including Laura MacArthur, Piedmont and Lester Park elementary schools,

Denfeld and East high schools and Edison's Northstar Academy.

  • The primary-colored playground: The brown shredded-rubber shavings covering the length of the playground run 9 inches deep and offer a cushy fall for students who might take a tumble off the giant cargo-net climbing pyramid. The play area includes a swing set, various slides, a climbing wall, teeter-totter, track slide and a tire swing. It's already been well-used by neighborhood families, Obst said. It's right outside the cafeteria, so kids eating can watch others playing outside during the lunch and recess shifts.
  • The media center: The atrium-like space has a wall of windows looking down onto the rows of bookcases and tables, and reading nooks are tucked into corners. Stairs lead down from second-floor classrooms and a dragon theme pulls together the room. A computer lab is adjacent.
  • The spaciousness of the school: The cafeteria commons area allows more room for kids to hang out before school starts, after they're done eating breakfast or while talking with friends. "In the old building, they waited outside in the morning when it was cold, or came into a crowded area," Obst said. "They'll like how uplifted they will feel. It feels good to be in the building."

  • The modern feeling of the school: The large classroom windows shed a lot of light, and indoor lights adjust to the light outside to better see what students are working on at their desks. Plexiglas coat hooks hang over radiant heat in the cafeteria so kids' coats will warm up or dry out after recess while they are eating. The cafeteria has two lunch lines and a streamlined layout, with a hand-washing sink. The full-size gym opens up into the cafeteria for more seating during events. Drinking fountains are in every classroom, along with diffusers that pull in air and send dry air back out, so students will work in comfort. "Coming from a building where it was sometimes 92 degrees, it will be very nice," Obst said.

  • Resource rooms: Each grade level has a pod of classrooms arranged around a central room for all classes to use. The staff helped design the areas, Obst said, and teachers wanted a place for classes to come together or for students to work on special projects or interventions. Windows surround the room, so teachers can keep an eye on the students working in it. The only remaining piece to Piedmont is district ownership of a field owned by neighboring Christ Lutheran Church. The district has made an offer on the field, which would be used for physical education and is meant to give the school more green space, and the church is set to vote Sept. 11. The School Board would then vote on the purchase.

    Students would be excited about the field, Obst said, but they will miss the access to Lincoln Park near the old school. A school bus will, however, take them to the Lincoln Park Boys and Girls Club after school. While attendance numbers won't be finalized for a few weeks, the number of registered students was 30 more than last year's final numbers two weeks before school started. Obst knows of several families coming back to Piedmont who opted against sending their kids to Lincoln Park last year. Staff members are very conscious of the school's place in the community, she said, as being meant for all users.

    For kids, she said, "It's not the Lincoln school. It's not the Piedmont school. It's 'their' school."

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