PORTLAND —  An F rating means a “fabulous” or “family” school — anything but “failing,” parents said Thursday afternoon outside Hall Elementary School.

About two dozen parents gathered there to greet staff members — and support them — a day after the school got an F under the Maine Department of Education’s new grading system.

“We just wanted the teachers to walk away feeling good,” said Rochelle Hale, who brought sunflowers to hand out to the staff.

Hale, whose sons are in the first and fifth grades at Hall Elementary, is one of several parents who started talking Thursday morning about what they could do to show the school’s staff their support. Word of the after-school rally was spread through email chains and Facebook posts.

Once students were released Thursday afternoon, they joined their parents holding up posters that read, “We (heart) Hall” and “We give Hall an A+.”

“This is what our school is all about,” said Assistant Principal Gloria Noyes, who had tears in her eyes.

Noyes said administrators were worried about morale being down at the school even before the state’s grades came out Wednesday, because of positions getting cut in next year’s budget. Hall was one of 32 elementary schools in Maine that got an F.

“I think this helps greatly,” Noyes said of the rally. “I feel like we can move mountains.”

Hall Elementary faced its first hurdle of the school year within two weeks of the start of classes in September, when a fire displaced students and staff members for three weeks.

Several people at Thursday’s rally noted that students took the assessment test used in the calculation of schools’ grades three days after returning to Hall Elementary on Orono Road from the former Cathedral School, downtown.

“To dismiss that it wasn’t a factor would be shortsighted,” said Principal Cynthia Remick.

Knowing the school’s scores on the assessment test, Remick said, she had an idea of what its grade would be. Still, she said, “it was quite a blow” to see the F.

Asked what the rally meant to her staff, Remick got choked up.

“To see this,” she said, “it’s just very reaffirming that we are doing good things and people support us.”

Rita Rubin-Long, a second-grade teacher at Hall Elementary, said she doesn’t want to make excuses for the grade and knows that every school can improve. But judging the school by a certain test score doesn’t give a complete picture of what’s happening in the classrooms and the halls, she said.

“They learn about loving reading. They learn about loving math. They’re writers. They do plays. They learn about being safe, kind, fair,” said Rubin-Long.

“The kinds of things you need to learn at a school to motivate you in life, that’s what you learn at Hall school,” she said.

Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at:

lbridgers@pressherald.com