It's the oldest school in the district.

But at 50 years old, Rowland Elementary looks brand new ... or at least the wing that has recently been remodeled.

And the Rowland Rascals are proud of their new facility, which features an expansive new library as well as a spiffy new classroom.

Several students sat outside, waiting anxiously for opening day on Nov. 21. Their school mascot is the Raccoon, which is appropriate because the kids are making off like bandits.

"The old library was so small, we really needed a bigger one," explained 11-year-old Diana Ramirez.

Her classmates nodded in agreement.

Jacky Lo was very animated about the new facility. Of course the 11-year-old already has his

Parents tour the new Wonder of Reading Library at Rowland Elementary.
sights set on going to Yale to become a lawyer.

It's been a lot of work raising money for the past two years. Just ask 11-year-old Mihir Ramani.

"We had a lot of fundraisers for the new library, but it was worth it," the sixth-grader said.

In fact, Principal Sandy Johnson reported the school raised more than $60,000 for their new Wonder of Reading Library. They were helped by many corporate sponsors, including a generous donation of $35,000 by Wells Fargo.

"Wells Fargo is thrilled to provide this gift to The Wonder of Reading — an organization that works tirelessly to improve our society by inspiring in children a love of reading," said Jason Williams, Wells Fargo regional sales manager. "Our hope is

that the students of Rowland Elementary School will further excel in their studies in their newly renovated and expanded library."

Inside, Johnson's husband, Jerry, helped put the finishing touches on the bookshelves. He carefully tacked down the knickknacks that gave the library lots of character. Johnson put a pair of firemen's boots, as well as a firefighter's helmet on the top shelf.

The school gutted two old classrooms for the new library. Shiny new bookcases lined the walls, filled with 12,000 books.

"We purchased $10,000 worth of new books to fill in our collection, especially non-fiction," reported Principal Johnson.

The Rowland administrator was excited about the carpeting, windows and ceilings that framed the library. It also features an ampitheater for storytelling, cozy reading nooks, new furniture and three computer research stations.

It even has a small electric fireplace. Outside the grounds have been transformed into a beautify reading garden.

Library aide Heidi Kurniadi was busy arranging the books around the library. She has three times as much space in the new facility.

"It's an honor to work in this new library," Kurniadi said.

Now the school is

looking for volunteers to read with the students. The Wonder of Reading organization has trained more than 4,000 volunteers to read one-on-one with children each week in Los Angeles.

"We'll even train our volunteers. Our next training date is Feb. 5, 2009," Johnson said.

The new library is sort of like the grand prize on "The Price Is Right." But contestants always wonder what was behind Door Number Two.

In Rowland's case, Door Number Two revealed the classroom of the future. The room models the work that will be done throughout district with money from the Measure R Bond.

The classroom features new carpet, ceilings, lighting, insulated windows and doors. The electrical and air-conditioning systems have also been upgraded.

"Every school won't need new windows and doors. It all depends on the condition of the classrooms," Johnson noted. "But every classroom will be upgraded."

A new "Learning Wall" across the front hides lots of storage, while the classroom has been wired for the latest computer technology.

Visitors who look closely will notice that the walls are semi-solid.

"You can put tacks into any of these walls to hold posters and work papers," Johnson explained.

With new desks and chairs, this classroom is a wonder in itself.

But combined with the Wonder of Reading Library next door, it's a rich present for Rowland Elementary on its golden anniversary.

richard.irwin@sgvn.com

(626) 962-8811, Ext. 2801