The Minneapolis School District, Minnesota’s third-largest, kicked off the school year on a fall-like day Monday, almost two weeks before most other districts in the state.

Across the city, 36,000 students showed up at the front steps of their buildings, met by jovial staff, community members and volunteers ready to launch the year.

At one school, students were greeted at lunch time by a food truck, an alternative arrangement prompted by a couple of factors.

Interim Superintendent Michael Goar made the rounds and said that despite the chilly weather, it was exciting to stand outside various schools and welcome students back.

“We really want to build upon the success of last year,” Goar said.

The district’s scores on state-mandated exams last year remained flat. But Goar pointed to gains on math and reading tests at some schools and said the district will focus on its academic strategies to try to improve achievement at all schools this year.

At South High School, local elected officials, members of the Corcoran neighborhood, school staff and band members lined the way to the front door to greet more than 1,800 students with jubilant cheers and high-fives.

At Lucy Craft Laney Community School, dozens of moms and dads also rallied students as they headed into the building. Local church leaders and district staff, including Goar, were also on hand.

Just before classes began, staff and volunteers linked hands in the school gym and prayed for a successful school year. K.G. Wilson of Hope Ministries said “this love” needed to be felt across other district schools. In the past, Wilson has worked to get more fathers on the North Side involved in their children’s schools. Now he wants to expand that effort.

“We are going to make this a movement across the city, to get our volunteers to welcome our students,” Goar said.

Hundreds of students at Roosevelt High School spent their first lunch period of the year eating cheese pizza, Caesar salad and fruit served from a food truck.

The early start, along with construction delays, meant the Roosevelt cafeteria wasn’t ready to serve the school’s 950 students.

Administrators said they didn’t want returning students to have to eat a sack lunch, so the district brought in its Nutrition Services Food Truck to serve hot meals.

Students will eat on the school’s football field and will be served pizza, burrito bowls and spicy chicken through the week.

“The fact that the cafeteria is delayed is an issue, but look at what we are doing,” said Roosevelt Principal Michael Bradley, pointing to hundreds of students sitting on the fields eating their lunches.

Student Katie Jones and her group of friends said they were surprised by the quality of the food-truck fare.

“It’s only the first day, but so far it’s really good,” Jones said.