INDEPENDENCE, Iowa - Some students aren't just starting the year with new pens and pencils, but with a whole new school building.
It has been a long path to get to Sunday's ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Junior/Senior High School building for the Independence Community School District. It took six tries to approve a bond issue. Voters said 'yes' to a $12.48 million bond in 2011.
Sunday was a day filled with welcoming smiles and blasting band music. Thousands took part in the long-awaited grand opening of the new facility. Many got their first look inside.
"Such an improvement isn't it?" said Independence Resident Karyl Hand.
"Today [Sunday] is about three years of hard work by everyone in this community, to get the bond passed, to get this building built in 15 months -- that's an incredible feat in itself," Independence Junior/Senior High School Principal Jennifer Sornson said. "It's just an incredible day for everyone."
Sornson said the new building has much more space. In the old one, teachers used to share classrooms. Now, she said they all have their own rooms.
"Every classroom is beautiful," Sornson said. "And we also have an auditorium, which we have never had, for probably 60 years we have not had an auditorium and we have one of the best music programs in the state, and so now they have a home."
There's no time like the present to get all 650 students inside.
"I'm so excited. I can't wait to start school tomorrow [Monday]," said Independence Sophomore Madyson Johanningmeier.
"We went right down to the wire to get this building ready and our kids start on Monday," Independence Superintendent Jean Peterson said.
The principal said students would get maps around the building for the first day.
"Everything is bigger, the wrestling room for instance, they have better mats, and they have a bigger place and then they also have a bigger band room and we have practice rooms. That just blows my mind," said Independence Sophomore Evelyn Gonzales.
From the weight room to the new classroom technology, people found something new to explore around every corner. Many are thankful to get a good look at what their tax dollars helped create.
"It's awesome to see the finished project," Hand said.
School leaders said they also invested money into the new school's security system. Cameras can be found all around the campus, and there's only one main entrance with lock-down capabilities.