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First day of school for Rochester's newly rebuilt Longfellow Elementary

Longfellow is one of two elementary schools that were rebuilt as part of the district’s 2019 voter-approved referendum. It's the only school in the district that operates on a 45-15 day schedule.

First Day of School at Longfellow Elementary's New Building
Theo Steiner, 2, gets some air with the help of his dad, Ryan Steiner, while dropping off his sister Natalie, 5, for her first day of kindergarten at the new Longfellow Elementary School building Wednesday, July 27, 2022, in Rochester.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
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ROCHESTER — It was a little hard to tell who was more excited for the first day of school Wednesday in the newly-rebuilt Longfellow Elementary: the students or the teachers.

"It's so exciiiiiting!" one teacher exclaimed as the kids started arriving at the door with their parents.

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Longfellow is one of two elementary schools that were rebuilt as part of the district’s 2019 voter-approved referendum. Built just down the road from the former Longfellow building, the new school is larger, with the capacity to hold more than 700 students.

Longfellow is the only school in the district that operates on a 45-15 day schedule. That means students have 45 days of classes, followed by 15 days off, which is why they start so early in the summer.

That's a major draw for some parents, like Amelia Tetlie, who was waiting with her son Owen for the first day of kindergarten to begin.

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“I like the fact that they won’t have an extended period when they’re not in school during the summer,” she said. “My husband did his undergrad in education, and they found this is really beneficial for kids to retain information.”

Others are drawn to the school because of its reputation. Scott and Linda Kujak entered the lottery for their son Thomas to be able to attend the district-wide option school. Thomas was starting his third-grade year at Longfellow on Wednesday after previously being at Bamber Valley.

Scott Kujak wasn't sure if they were admitted because of the lottery system or because of the newly redrawn boundaries. It felt like they won the lottery either way, he said.

“We heard good things about the school. All the people we know who have attended here have said great things, so we wanted our son to have the best educational experience possible,” Scott Kujak said.

A sea of students with blue Longfellow Leopards T-shirts lined up outside the school doors, waiting for class to begin. Students already in line shouted and waved to friends and classmates stepping off the buses.

First Day of School at Longfellow Elementary's New Building
Rochester Public Schools Superintendent Kent Pekel greets students on the first day of school at the new Longfellow Elementary School building Wednesday, July 27, 2022, in Rochester.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

The Miller sisters – Annabelle, 7, and Angelina, 5 – were smiling as they waited for their first day to officially begin.

Annabelle said she was excited about "making friends."

"We're going to make brand new ones," she added.

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Special education teacher Kala Noble worked at the former Longfellow Elementary for 10 years and said she’s excited about the cutting-edge technology in the new building. One example is the speakers in the ceiling, allowing her voice to carry farther in the classroom without her having to raise her voice.

She's also excited for some more simple reasons.

"It's gorgeous," Noble said about the new building. "All the natural light is going to be so good for the kids."

First Day of School at Longfellow Elementary's New Building
Students arrive for their first day of school at the new Longfellow Elementary School building Wednesday, July 27, 2022, in Rochester.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
First Day of School at Longfellow Elementary's New Building
Dr. Eleshia Morrison-Shah and Dr. Priyank Shah drop their daughter Sanjana, 5, off for her first day of kindergarten at the new Longfellow Elementary School building Wednesday, July 27, 2022, in Rochester.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
First Day of School at Longfellow Elementary's New Building
Students arrive for their first day of school at the new Longfellow Elementary School building Wednesday, July 27, 2022, in Rochester.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
First Day of School at Longfellow Elementary's New Building
Students arrive for their first day of school at the new Longfellow Elementary School building Wednesday, July 27, 2022, in Rochester.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
First Day of School at Longfellow Elementary's New Building
Students arrive for their first day of school at the new Longfellow Elementary School building Wednesday, July 27, 2022, in Rochester.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

Jordan Shearer covers K-12 education for the Post Bulletin. A Rochester native, he graduated from Bemidji State University in 2013 before heading out to write for a small newsroom in the boonies of western Nebraska. Bringing things full circle, he returned to Rochester in 2020 just shy of a decade after leaving. Readers can reach Jordan at 507-285-7710 or jshearer@postbulletin.com.
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