Kiya Potvin, 7, examines a collection of painted rocks for the Connors Elementary School rock garden during the open house in Lewiston on Thursday. With her are her father, Dustin Potvin, friend Hannah Cooper, and grandmother Dawna Potvin. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

LEWISTON — In some ways, it was a peculiar sight: It’s still summer, yet hundreds of kids were lined up Thursday to go to school.

The open house at the spanking-new Robert V. Connors Elementary school was a smashing success by anyone’s standards. Roughly 1,000 people turned out to get a glimpse of the modern building next door to Lewiston High School.

By and large, people liked what they saw.

Levon Steger, 4, looks at a picture book with his mother Evyn Steger in one of the new classrooms at Connors Elementary School in Lewiston during the open house Thursday. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“This is just awesome,” said Evyn Steger, who was introducing her son, Levon, to the woman who will be his first schoolteacher. “We couldn’t ask for a better place for him to start out.”

Brittney Watson was leading her 4-year-old daughter Akylla by the hand, walking her down the clean, bright halls and into the spacious classrooms.

“It’s beautiful,” Watson said. “Everything is so new and nice.”

The $45.8 million building is big by elementary school standards — 100-plus-rooms big, in fact. Yet every inch of it Thursday seemed to be crawling with children, parents and maybe a few who were just curious about the city’s investment.

At times, it felt more like a rock concert than a school event. Hundreds of people jammed the front lot before the ribbon was cut and the doors were opened. Everywhere you looked was a local celebrity or VIP.

Animal rescuer Drew Desjardins, known better as Mr. Drew and his Animals, Too, was there with some of his critters to help celebrate. Lewiston police parked their Critical Incident truck nearby so kids could marvel over it.

New Lewiston School Superintendent Todd Finn stood in front of the doors dressed in a bright blue vest over a white shirt. To call Finn enthusiastic about the school opening would be an understatement. He bellowed out to the crowd, loudly praising the city and thanking his predecessors for leaving such a fine new school for him.

“It’s absolutely awesome,” Finn shouted.

Connors Elementary School Principal Sara Sim, addresses the assembled crowd before a ribbon-cutting at the new school Thursday afternoon. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Sara Sims, principal of the new school, was likewise jolly about the grand opening. They had estimated that as many as 1,000 people might show up for the opening and they were not disappointed. Standing in a sea of people near the school doors, Sims did her best to greet each and every visitor who passed through the doors.

“It has been fabulous,” Sims said. “It’s just been amazing. There’s so much going on.”

Meanwhile, longtime Lewiston school teacher Jacqueline Violette — Mrs. V to her students — showed up to inspect the school and to praise the man for whom it is named.

Back in 1969, Violette was teaching at Montello School, then a junior high, when Connors became principal of the school. For Violette, it would prove to be a life-changing meeting.

“He became a mentor to me. He was a mentor for all of my teaching years,” Violette said. “He was such a great man, and a great advocate for teachers and parents. He was very friendly and always had a smile on his face. The best thing I can say about him: He was fair with a capital F.”

Rebecca Sosny listens to 4-year-old Jacob Capalbo who will be joining her pre-kindergarten class at the new Connors Elementary School in Lewiston this fall. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Connors, superintendent for 21 years, died in 2013.

Students who attend the school will have a state-of-the-art library and plenty of room for outdoor play. There will be art rooms, music rooms, a lab for science, technology, engineering and math classes, a nurse’s office, a large cafeteria and full-sized gymnasium with a wooden floor. A stage that opens up to both the gym and cafeteria is in the middle.

Rebecca Sosny, 30 years in the business of teaching, knelt in her classroom Thursday, greeting children who came to meet her for the first time. Some of the kids were shy and reserved, others were boisterous and talkative.

When she got a break between her pre-kindergarten students, Sosny stood and looked at the clean, bright room around her.

“It’s just awesome,” she said. “I love it.”

Aisha Ibrahim, 11, and her mother, Maryan Hussein, are among the first to arrive at an open house at the new Connors Elementary School on Thursday afternoon. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Audrey Suli, left, shoots a basket in the Connors Elementary School gymnasium during an open house Thursday afternoon. From right, Kristen Huntress, Kasie Maloney and Natalie Thurber, all members of the Central Maine Community College women’s basketball team, cheer her on. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

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