LEWISTON — Gathered around their teacher in their Longley Elementary School class, first-graders started their year Monday by singing the new school song.

“We have a new school mascot,” teacher Jessica Roy said. “Last year you were the Longley Mustangs. This year we are the Longley Lions. This is what a lion looks like,” she said, pointing to a picture. “The lion is the king of the jungle.”

To the tune of a military cadence, the class sang each line after Roy: “Longley Lions roar with pride. We have courage deep inside. No excuses is our rule. We take pride in Longley School!”

At the end, using their inside voices, “we get to go roar,” Roy said. Her students smiled as they roared.

“Good job!” she praised.

With the help of extra resources from a $2 million grant from the federal government, the new-and-improved Longley Elementary school welcomed 321 students Monday, the first day of school in Lewiston-Auburn.

Longley, a school of inner-city students where many come from poor and immigrant families, was one of 10 Maine schools identified as needing intervention because of persistent low student test scores. Longley will get help to boost student learning, including math and reading coaches, a longer school day for students who need it, more professional development for teachers, the hiring of a parent coordinator to boost parental involvement, including a PTO the school has lacked for years.

Physically, the school building looks better. The grounds are neater. Bright blue trim adorns the top of the concrete building. “A little bit of color makes it more kid friendly,” Principal Linda St. Andre said. Block letters spelling out the school’s name will soon go on the building.

Inside, a more spacious front office and lobby have been created. “It definitely is more open,” parent Shanon Lambert said. “It looks much more inviting.”

Except for an occasional nervous kindergartner or first-grader, there were lots of smiles. Down a hall the smell of floor wax hung in the air in a not-quite-done parents center.

The first few minutes of school were congested, “but it went smoothly,” St. Andre said.

Parents were concerned about which room their child should go to. “We got them placed quickly. I saw lots of smiles as people were leaving. That’s my indication that things went well,” she said before walking into the sixth-grade classroom to introduce herself.

“Good morning sixth-graders!” she said to Sara Hogate’s class. “I’m your principal this year. Thank you for coming, for being on time. I’m happy to see you.”

To those wondering where former Principal Tom Hood was, “he’s over at McMahon School,” St. Andre explained. “They made some switches this year. Lots of schools have new principals.”

After St. Andre left, the teacher talked about sixth-grade expectations, where things went, how students would be assigned tasks to help out. They were to practice going to recess to go over expected playground behavior.

“Why don’t we push in our chairs and line up to go outside,” Hogate said as the class of 19 created an orderly line. On the wall were forms that will be given to students caught doing something good.

In Monica Michaud’s pre-K room, all was quiet. The 4-year-olds won’t arrive for a few more days.

One of the first words preschoolers will learn this year will be college. “We’re going to promote college readiness,” Michaud said. Each classroom will adopt a different college and hang college banners in classrooms.

Michaud hopes to adopt Bates College. Another teacher has picked the Texas Longhorns, or the University of Texas. Students will know that after they complete Longley they’ll go to middle school, then high school, then college, Michaud said. All will get the message early and often “they have the power to do it. Every kid can succeed.”

For this year, Longley faculty will focus on helping students make progress, St. Andre said. “We’ll be keeping an eye on that data very closely.”

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