WATERLOO, Iowa --- Mike Maxson got an early look at the new Fred Becker Elementary School.
He was part of the Becker construction crew that built the school's concrete walls. Maxson returned Tuesday, a year after finishing the work, to see the completed building in advance of his second-grader, Jaden, starting school there today.
"I think it looks real nice," he said, while standing in a hallway by one of those now-painted concrete walls. Maxson liked the idea of helping build the school his son would attend. "I switched companies to come work on this school."
The pair was joined by a steady stream of families Tuesday afternoon who wanted to check out the new school, find their children's classrooms and talk to the teachers.
Becker, 1239 Sheldon St., replaces Edison Elementary School and is built on the site of the former Black Hawk Elementary School. Its enrollment is largely drawn from the former attendance areas of the two schools. The $13.6 million project was paid for with Waterloo Community Schools' portion of a statewide 1 percent sales tax.
Principal Melissa Steggall said the school was opened to the community the evening before classes started to satisfy people's curiosity and reduce the anxiety children might feel in a new, unfamiliar place.
"Our hope is when the school day starts, it'll be back to business as usual," she said.
Fifth-grader Ali Mullnix --- there with her dad, sister and grandparents --- told a friend she met in a hallway that she couldn't wait for classes to start today.
"I'm really excited," she said. "I'm not excited about the old school closing, but this is awesome. I really like how big the 'specials' rooms (for art and music) are, and all the space in the classrooms."
Marty Mullnix, her grandmother, noted a "roomier" building from the hallways to the classrooms, "even temperatures throughout," and the open cafeteria design. "I'm impressed," she said.
"The gym, for a grade school, is phenomenal," added grandfather Marlin Mullnix. Across the whole building, "they didn't skimp on anything."
Patty Close and her family liked the 79,271-square-foot school's single-story design and layout.
"It would be easy for (students) to find where they're going," she said.
"I've seen a lot of these new schools, and I like how they're all one level," added her husband, Chris.