Tonganoxie now home to the largest elementary school building in Kansas

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TONGANOXIE, Kan. -- Teachers are getting ready for the new school year by moving into the largest elementary school building in Kansas.

The new building is replacing an old school that served the community for more than 100 years.

There's a lot of excitement over returning to the classroom in August thanks to the new school. The building has 135,000 square feet for 850 students ranging from kindergarten through fifth grade.

Tonganoxie has seen its population surge 30 percent during the last decade. The school was built anticipating even more growth. It can handle up to 1,300 kids.

Voters approved a bond issue of more than $27 million in 2012 to build the school.

"It means a lot to us," said Lorelei Whitt, a parent of two elementary school children. "I volunteer a lot with the parent teacher club and just being in the school a lot and seeing how crowded the old school was. Kiddos reading in the hallway and on the floor, things like that. This means a lot. I think the kids will get a lot more out of their learning experience."

The new school has two gymnasiums, a life skills center, and high-tech library. Not everything is new though. Many of the desks and classroom equipment from the old school have been moved as a money-saving measure.

"It is structured into small learning communities, so each grade level is considered a family," said Lyn Rantz, school superintendent. "Kindergarten is a family and first grade so you have K through 5 here. Within each small learning community you have 9-10 classrooms, they have their own restrooms, they have their own staff collaboration."

Located within an easy commute to Kansas City, Lawrence or Topeka, the new school is expected to attract even more people who are looking for small town values close to their jobs.

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