Photo by Casey MahonReturning from winter break is always little exciting, both for students and parents alike.

But kindergarten students at Valley View Elementary in Columbia Heights got an extra boost when they returned to school on Monday to find six new classrooms, courtesy of a $2.9 million project that wrapped up ahead of schedule and under budget.

Construction on the six classrooms - five for kindergarten and one for early childhood classes - started this summer.

School officials say the addition will help off-set enrollment gains at the school, which has recently gotten a lot of attention for the significant academic strides being made by its students, many of which come from low-income families.

For example, the school’s Hispanic, Black and Asian students topped the statewide average of their peers in both reading and math on last year’s MCAs. Valley View’s Hispanic students — who make up about one-third of the student body — were 74 percent proficient in math. That’s more than twice the statewide average.

The Minnesota Business Partnership presented Valley View with its Minnesota Future Award and a check for $20,000 earlier this year in recognition of the school's successes.

Photo by Casey Mahon