During the anniversary celebration of its construction, Grand Island Central School District officials said Kaegebein Elementary School is still the school William Kaegebein envisioned 60 years ago: a place where Island children become engaged in learning and begin to make a difference in their world.
The school celebrated its 60th anniversary Monday with ceremonies during the school day and in the evening. At the 6:30 p.m. ceremony, Grand Island Superintendent of School Robert Christmann noted that William Kaegebein, for whom the school is named, had been a board member for 40 years, starting in 1912, and retired in 1952 "on the very same day 40 years after he began. Having been through about 40 years of board meetings myself, I can't imagine what it would be like to serve as a school board leader for such a period of time. There was so much change that was going on from the time of 1912, through the wars, to 1952. It's just an amazing record of a community member who gave so much to Grand Island, the students and the community itself. His dedication, his vision, made it the building you're in now, and we owe him a great debt of gratitude."
Teddy Linenfelser, Grand Island town historian, described the era in which the building was conceived and built, when new homes built in places on the Island with names like Falconwood and Sandy Beach outpaced the construction of the new schools. The Kaegebein classrooms relieved overcrowding at Sidway School, where there were 38 students to a room, Linenfelser said.
Christmann said a school building is more than brick and mortar, but a place to learn, a place where children can come to care about others, and a place to develop an appreciation for their community.
"That's been Kaegebein for over 60 years and reflects all the good things about this very special school," Christmann said.
Kaegebein Principal Mary Haggerty asked if the community in 1952 would be surprised by today's 21st century education, with Smartboards, wired classrooms, and books in electronic form.
"They might be surprised by the changes in educational policy and pedagogy, but I don't think they would be surprised to observe what we see here at Kaegebein every single day," she said: boys and girls who are excited to come to school, a school that makes them feel safe, and staff members dedicated to engaging them in learning.
What goes on inside the walls makes building a school different than building any other type of structure, explained Jon Albertsson, grandson of Moritz Allgaier, owner of Allgaier Construction that built Kaegebein and many other schools.
"Every time I drive by here, it's a wonderful feeling," he said.