First Look At New Gene Dillon Elementary School
In exactly one week from today, close to 900 4th and 5th graders from the Bemidji area will be walking into a brand new building for their first day of school.
What once was a plot of land on Division Street has transformed into a state-of-the-art elementary school. Gene Dillon Elementary School will provide a safe and secure learning environment for kids, and staff are certain those kids will fall in love with their new home away from home.
“I am so thrilled to have been able to collaborate with so many community members. The people that built the building, the people that financially supported us, the teachers who have packed up their room and really formed a new family here at Gene Dillon,” says Ami Aalgaard, the principal of Gene Dillon.
“We worked hard to get it done for them, so we hope they enjoy it for years to come,” says Gary Francisco, the lead superintendent with Kraus-Anderson Construction Company who helped build the school.
The new building provides the unique opportunity for students to get exposed to many different subject areas at an early age. Gene Dillon will also serve a practical role within the district.
Tim Lutz, the superintendent of Bemidji Area Schools, says, “Having Gene Dillon open is going to alleviate the overcrowding in a lot of our elementary schools that we have experienced over the last few years. We’ve had class sizes of way too many students and the individual elementary buildings have also been crowded, so it has been hard to find space.”
The school is meant to serve as a transition between elementary and middle school. A big focus will be STEAM, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math.
“Some of the things that we’re really looking forward to is a real concentration with technology supports, but we’re also not going to lose focus on the importance of writing and reading and so on so forth. So we’re going to bring a nice balance,” says Aalgaard.
“The technology in this building that the kids are going to learn is just kind of something you would see in a private school setting or charter school setting and in the public school setting we’re able to offer it,” says Gene Dillon assistant principal David Gooch.
Curriculum will be key at Gene Dillon, but students will also have support from mental health experts.
Amy Riley, a counselor with North Homes in Bemidji, says, “One of my roles is to help students through group and individual counseling, just service their mental health needs.”
As Gene Dillon gets ready to host their first orientation this Thursday, officials are thankful to the community for helping make their dream a reality.
“We thank them for their commitment to education, their supporting the referendum that made this building happen, and it’s been a long four years and now to see this come into fruition is very exciting for the community,” says Carol L. Johnson, the Bemidji School Board chairperson.
The orientation goes from 8 in the morning to 11 this Thursday. All parents and students are welcome to attend. You can keep up to date on all things Gene Dillon here.