LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - The new Harper McCaughan Elementary School certainly catches your eye as you drive along Pineville Road in Long Beach.
"Parents could drive through here, and they can let students off. It's covered in case there's bad weather," said Long Beach School Superintendent Carrolyn Hamilton as she walked through the front entrance.
She drops by the school quite often.
"I come here just about daily to see the progress, and each day you can see more that's happened," said Hamilton. "And we just cannot wait to get our students and staff and our community in this school."
The 80,000 square foot building is bigger than the old Harper McCaughan. The moment you enter, you immediately see why the design is like no other in South Mississippi.
"That's our octagonal pop-up, and I don't know if there's a fancy name or not," Hamilton said pointing to two octagon-shaped foyers.
The 'pop-ups' feature windows that shower the building with natural light.
"Just to add the feel of openness and inviting," said Hamilton. "We want to be able to bring the outdoors in. We live in a beautiful area, and it's a shame to shut it out."
On one side of the building is a reception area for parents, as well as staff offices. On the other side is the media center with its own classroom.
Students will also have something new, a full-size gym. It has a stage for school programs and the space can be used by sports teams for after-school practice. The cafeteria offers a gorgeous view of trees and wetlands.
"We're very excited. I think it's a unique look to the school," Hamilton said.
Kindergartners through second graders will have classes on the first floor. The second floor is for third through fifth graders. An enclosed walkway connects the academic wings.
"You'll be able to look down into the courtyard from both floors," said Hamilton.
There are 30 classrooms, designed with teachers in mind.
"They needed cubbies for all students, no matter what grade. They needed a lot of storage, and they've gotten that," Hamilton said.
The children's needs are also considered. For instance, the water fountains are set at different height levels.
"Our other schools are older, and they don't have some of these amenities for our children," Hamilton said. "But we were able to do that in this school and make sure they're age appropriate for kindergarten through fifth grade."
The school was supposed to be ready when classes started this month, but rain caused some delays. Crews still have a lot of work to do to prepare the school for a post-Thanksgiving opening.
"Patience has helped us get through, and we'll just be patient a little longer," Hamilton said.
The school will open with about 390 students. The building can accommodate up to 770 children. FEMA is covering most of the cost of the $16.5 million campus.