“This is their home:” A special first day at Mitchell School in Racine, after a devastating fire

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RACINE (WITI) -- A very special first day of school on Tuesday, September 2nd for students at Mitchell School in Racine. Kids headed back to school for the first time since a fire in February forced them to finish the school year elsewhere.

On the first day of school, everything feels new, exciting and full of promise -- and that was certainly true for Mitchell School students as they headed back to school Tuesday morning.

"They're used to this building. This is their home. This is where they learn and grow and make memories and so they're excited to be back for the first day," Jane Flis, Marketing & Communications Specialist for the Racine Unified School District said.

Fire raced through Mitchell School's multi-purpose room on February 27th. Mitchell Elementary School and Mitchell Middle School were uninhabitable after the fire due to smoke, soot and water damage, which permeated the 217,000 square foot, two-story structure on Drexel Avenue in Racine.

Mitchell Elementary School students were moved to the Wind Point Elementary School in Racine to finish out the school year.

"Our students had to move from the elementary side of the building to a different building in the district for the remainder of the school year," Flis said.

Mitchell Middle School students were able to get back into the building on Drexel Avenue on March 18th. Additional time was added to each school day to make up for time lost in the classroom.

Months of cleaning and construction went into getting the school ready for middle school students in March, and elementary students Tuesday, September 2nd.

On this first day of school, the February fire was still fueling chatter and curiosity.

"The comments that I've heard is they wanted to see the hallways that had the fire. They wanted to see the gymnasium and all that stuff. I've seen students asking questions about that -- just what it looks like inside," Soren Gajewski, the Directing Principal of Mitchell School said.

Construction continues on the multi-purpose room, though we're told that should be completed by the end of September.

Gajewski says having the building ready to go could make a big difference for some of Mitchell School's students.

"This is their neighborhood school -- so they're able to walk and come to the school that they live nearby and that's going to make a big difference for students working with their teachers after school and before school," Gajewski said.

Teachers and staff members are working around the portion of the building that is still under construction. They are utilizing space in the middle school's cafeteria, and having some physical education activities outside, while it's still nice out.

Below, we've included some photos of the reconstruction work performed by Paul Davis following February's fire.

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