Rowe celebrates opening of new elementary school - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

Rowe celebrates opening of new elementary school

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Two years ago, on Aug. 4, 2012, a lightning strike started a fire at Rowe Elementary School.

Sunday, just as the school year is about to begin, officials in the Franklin County town introduced their new school.

"It's hard to believe that this day is finally here," said Principal Bill Knittle, reflecting on the two year journey it took to re-build his school.

Town officials held a celebration Sunday afternoon, which is a far cry from where things were in 2012.

Following a lightning strike, nearly 125 firefighters from around the region tried to salvage the old school, but it was not meant to be.

Since that time, students have been learning from their teachers in a nearby town, while Rowe officials put in many hours to see the new building built.

"Just to have been involved in all of those processes and to now have it all come together, it's almost surreal, but it's very rewarding," said Knittle.

Rewarding, but not without some concerns.

Months after the fire, some residents questioned the quickness of re-building.

Knittle said having the school up and running is a priority for a small town like Rowe.

"[It's] not only a school, but a gymnasium where we can hold town meetings and [we have] our project room, where groups can meet after school," said Knittle. "It becomes not only a school, but a center for community activities."

"It's been a lot to get where we are now, but we're here and we're not going to look back anymore," said Kimberly Celli, who works at Rowe Elementary.

Celli's daughter was part of a committee that helped to establish the school's new mascot: the phoenix.

Celli said the students and their families understood why it was such a great fit.

"They did a vote and all of the kids liked the phoenix," said Celli. "It's just a rebuild, something that represents rebuilding and it's going to keep on going forever."

The new school cost $6.9 million, which was paid with insurance money.

Teachers will get the next couple of days to feel things out, as students will begin the school year at the new building this coming Wednesday.

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