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Decked out in their finest “pajama day” gear, Bettendorf students were filed through what will soon be their new school. Sometimes they commented on their favorite parts of the building — the library, the tiered playground, the gym — but often they were more preoccupied with the construction workers still toiling away during their tour. 

Mark Twain Elementary students have been split between two campuses this semester, while construction wraps: The youngest students are at what was formerly Thomas Jefferson Elementary, and the older students are at a renovated portion of Ross College. 

“You shouldn’t be touching anything that looks like you shouldn’t be touching it — so, probably everything,” Director of Operations Curt Pratt said, before leading a gaggle of third-graders up the stairs. “It could be rusty metal,” one helpful second-grader pointed out.

Students and teachers were bused over, class by class, and toured the yet-unfinished new Mark Twain Elementary on Tuesday. The more than 65,000-square-foot building cost $16.5 million and should be ready for classes in January, after winter break. 

“Is the library going to be bigger?” one third-grade girl asked.

The library, at the very top of the “learning steps,” that connects to the cafeteria and overlooks the gym, has large glass walls overlooking Duck Creek.

“You get the best view,” a boy said to teacher-librarian Erin Waldron-Smith. 

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Downstairs, there’s a wing for preschool students and kindergartners, complete with small drinking fountains. Upstairs, though, some of the rooms were finished enough that students could stand in the classroom that, in just a few months, they’ll be learning in every day. 

Classrooms are arranged in “pods,” with common areas between them. Now, the gray, teal and lime green space is filled with construction gear, but Superintendent Mike Raso said they’ll soon be furnished with “collaborative furniture” to help with small group instruction. 

Looking out some of the classrooms, there’s a view of what will eventually be the playground. It’s tiered, with a lower “hard-top” section for basketball courts and tetherball, and an upper “soft-top” section with toys.

“There’s an upstairs and downstairs playground?” a boy asked. “That’s pretty cool.”

The gymnasium looks to be the most complete, and that’s where the student tours concluded with group pictures in front of a rock-climbing wall. The floor was dusty, and one man was still touching up a painted red stripe circling the space, but the “best gym ever,” as one girl described it, was mostly ready to go.

“This is good,” a third-grader said, looking around. “This is good.”

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