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MUNSTER | The new Elliott Elementary School has been bustling with students since early January, but the community gets its first inside look today.

Architects Dan Szany and Tom Vavrek will hand over the key and present a plaque to school officials during a dedication ceremony at 1 p.m. Tours of the building follow.

The $9.5 million building is part of a long-term, multimillion dollar building project originating in 1994 in response to Munster's slow but steady growth, according to Michael O'Connor, assistant to the superintendent.

The original Elliott School, named for former Superintendent Ernest Elliott, opened in 1952 with eight classrooms and a kindergarten. Six classrooms and a library were added in 1955. Ten years later seven classrooms, a gymnasium and additional library space were built to accommodate the growing student population.

The new building, designed by architects Carras-Szany-Kuhn & Associates, includes clustered classrooms, a double gymnasium and a raised stage that can be used by either the cafeteria or the gymnasium.

The new Elliott school completes the building projects at the elementary school level under the current bond issue, according to Superintendent William Pfister. He did not rule out further expansion given the town's growth.

The next building phase includes a new transportation center in the industrial park off Calumet Avenue and Superior Street and a new physical education building that will be connected to Wilbur Wright Middle School. The new physical education building will be a shared facility with Munster High School and available for community use.

"We're growing," O'Connor said simply.

O'Connor attributed much of the continuing expansion to some neighborhoods experiencing a transition, particularly at the middle school level, in which families are moving into established homes vacated by retirees.

The middle school alone is averaging an increase of 40 students a year, he said.

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