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Stonington - The 16 students in Krysta Dessereaux's kindergarten class at Deans Mill School were greeted last week with quite a surprise - a 7-foot-tall, bright red schoolhouse smack in the middle of their classroom.
Outside the miniature schoolhouse is an artificial lawn and white picket fence, all next to the students' reading garden.
Dessereaux not only came up with the idea and spent $600 of her own money for the materials to build the schoolhouse, but her father, mother, brother and a neighbor all worked on the project and assembled it in her classroom.
"I had a vision of what I wanted to do but they made it come to life," she said. "It was a family effort."
She said she wanted the students to have a place where they could use their imagination.
"I also knew this was their first year at the school and I wanted to make sure they enjoyed their first educational experience," she said.
Dessereaux's father Bruce, mother Jayne and brother Justin, who live in Charlestown, R.I., and their neighbor Andy DeLoreto spent several weeks working on the project, Dessereaux said. Her father built it in three pieces and trucked it to the school, and she and her mother painted it.
"I'm lucky I have a family that supports my dreams," said Dessereaux, who is in her third year at the school but her first teaching kindergarten.
The schoolhouse footprint is 8-by-8-feet. It is accessible for a small wheelchair. Inside, it has a table, chairs and a kitchen. The reading garden has two Adirondack chairs.
"It's a mandatory stop for anyone who comes in the building now," Principal Doug Hammel said of the schoolhouse.