MURTAUGH • Kate Merrick is getting ready for fifth grade to start Monday in a brand new Murtaugh Elementary School.

“I think it’s really awesome so far,” the 10-year-old said Wednesday night after a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

She’s excited the new building has air conditioning and that everything is new. “It’s different, definitely.”

Merrick and her fifth-grade classmates cut the ribbon during an opening ceremony for the new elementary school.

A crowd of about 200 people gathered outside the school’s front entrance to watch.

The new 29,500-square-foot building connects up to Murtaugh Middle/Senior High School. It includes 11 new classrooms, two of which will accommodate future growth.

“This has been a labor of love for so many people,” Superintendent Michele Capps told the crowd.

The old elementary school — built in two phases in the 1930s and ‘60s — will be kept for after-school programs.

The new school — Murtaugh’s first in 20 years — will be a hub of community life in the rural Twin Falls County town.

Voters approved a $5.4 million bond in March 2014 for facility projects, including the new school and a vocational agriculture center that opened in December.

And they won’t see a tax increase. That’s because the middle/high school bond will be paid off.

Capps thanked the community for their support. “Please stay involved with the school,” she said.

Murtaugh’s new elementary school is a “big step forward for this district,” she said, and “a big source of pride for the community.”

On Wednesday night, Monsanto Fund also presented the school district with a $25,000 grant through the America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education program. Money will be used to rebuild Murtaugh’s greenhouse this fall. It will double in size to 60’ by 30’ with a state-of-the-art cooling system. It will be a research lab space for students.

Local farmers nominated Murtaugh for the grant, said John Snelling of Monsanto Co. Teachers and administrators wrote the grant application.

Monsanto wants to encourage students in rural schools to pursue math and science education, Snelling said.

Visitors toured the building and had dinner at an event to meet the high school football and volleyball teams.

Before the ceremony, Kenna Arrington greeted children and their parents in her new first-grade classroom. She hugged two of her former students.

“Did you know I get your sister this year?” she asked, and they nodded.

Murtaugh is a friendly, open school, said Arrington, who has taught there for 10 years.

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“We’re just so grateful for the new school,” she said, adding it’s a dream come true.

The classroom technology is first class, she said. Also, the kindergarten and first grade classrooms each have their own bathroom, along with plenty of storage space. And building-wide air conditioning is a huge plus.

Arrington expects 25 first-graders in her class. Last year, she had a large group – 32 students – who will be split into two second-grade classes this year.

“Our numbers have gone up quite a bit,” she said.

The Murtaugh School District has about 280 students in kindergarten through 12th grades.

Reese and Paige Widmier walked through the hallway with their three daughters.

The new building is a big improvement over the old elementary school, which had its latest addition in the 1960s, Paige said.

The new building is neat, Reese said, and is much larger and modernized.

“We need this,” he said, “for the community.”

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