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Franklin

Michele Pittington, principal of Franklin Elementary School in Moline, shows off the classroom where the 2017 fire started Monday during a tour of the renovated building.

Stormy conditions didn't dampen anyone's enthusiasm Monday as Franklin Elementary School, Moline, reopened its doors.

More than 200 people attended the celebration. A standing-room-only crowd exceeded the 100 chairs set up for the occasion.

"Welcome to the new looking Franklin Elementary," Moline-Coal Valley School District superintendent Lanty McGuire said to open the public ribbon-cutting ceremony.

That preceded an "Unpack Your Backpack" event to show the school off to students.

James Russell, president and CEO of Davenport's Russell Construction Co., tested the audience with a math question.

"We spent $4.3 million in 90 days to put this all together, so what did it cost per day?"

He answered. "It cost $47,000 per day."

It took 170 trades people to complete the project, he said.

A September 2017 fire caused the school to relocate to a former Western Illinois University/IBM building on Moline's 60th Street, leased for the school year from the Joe Lemon family.

Joe Lemon Sr. and Jr. attended Monday's gathering, and said they were impressed by the community turnout

After the fire, only five days of education were lost, McGuire said. With a weekend, it took eight days for classes to resume, an "unbelievable short amount of time," he said.

McGuire called it an exciting day to "welcome our students back to their home school. It takes a village to raise a child, and the refurbishing of Franklin is a good example of that," he said.

Macy McCurdy, 8, entering the third grade, was equally excited, especially by the air-conditioned building.

Her mom, PTA president Julie Dean-McCurdy, thought workers did a "beautiful job," and agreed with her daughter that it all looks bigger and brighter than the old Franklin, although the school's 30,578 square footage remained the same.

Franklin was built in 1952, and had additions built in 1954 and 1968, according to school records provided by Candace Sountris, school district public information and communications director.

Among emergency responders who answered the fire call were state Sen. Neil Anderson, R-Andalusia, and Ron Crouch. Crouch has been a Moline Second Alarmer for 49 years, but was at the ceremony representing the Quad-Cities Chamber of Commerce as an ambassador.

Anderson also attended Monday's ceremony, and mentioned to McGuire that it certainly looked better than it did on the day of the fire.

McGuire also called it a valuable lesson for students by teaching them what to do during a crisis.

"It will be something they can carry with them through the rest of their lives, that they lived through this and have become better for it," McGuire said.

Tours of the building showed off a new lobby with a state-of-the-art security system, LED lighting throughout the building, an open library concept, a flexible art-music room, and a new Discovery Lab in a former kindergarten room, now moved up the hall, and including separate restrooms.

New floors and repainted rooms were included as tour stops, as well as a look at where the fire started in the back of the school.

The tour also featured a new screen for the school stage, where a slide show was presented to end the occasion before students proceeded unpacking their backpacks.

"Most importantly," principal Michele Pittington said, "we're home now."

Teachers all wore "Home Sweet Home" T-Shirts, as were members of the ribbon-cutting crew Jenny Densberger and Luann Lindauer, who were joined by parent Amanda Casterton and students Julia McCowan, Lucas and Jacob Berkley and Macy McCurdy.

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Business Editor/Night City Editor