Teachers move in to new Harper McCaughan Elementary School

By Trang Pham-Bui – bio | email

LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) – It is a hectic moving week for Harper McCaughan Elementary teachers.

"We're trying to find everybody's desks and chairs," one teacher said as she counted furniture in every classroom.

The teachers are eagerly unloading boxes of books and supplies, trying to get their classrooms ready in a matter of days.

"Yeah, I found all my keys to all my cabinets!" Martha Johnson exclaimed.

The fifth grade teacher is surrounded by a big mess.

"I'm just trying to organize the chaos. I'm waiting for my desk. I'm a little bit overwhelmed," said Johnson.

Next door, Sharon Hasselman is almost finished with her room.

"I feel excited and it's a phenomenal event for us, because we've been in a trailer since Katrina," said Hasselman. "I want the children to feel welcomed and at home as soon as they walk in the door."

The 80,000 square foot building was supposed to open this past August.  But rain kept delaying the project.  Now, everyone is counting down to January fifth, when students return from their Christmas break.

"As we see desks going in, chairs going in, and books going in, we're beginning to all think it's really going to happen for us," said Principal Eddie Holmes. "I am relieved.  It's great to be under one roof now."

When teachers and students start school in January, they will see reminders of the old Harper McCaughan.  A Katrina memorial is under construction in the courtyard.  The bricks were salvaged from the old building.  Plaques and a flagpole from the former campus will also go up there. They will serve as a symbol of survival and a reminder that the name Harper McCaughan Elementary lives on.

"This is a wonderful environment and we think it's going to be a wonderful learning environment for many years to come," said Holmes.

"Being upstairs and being able to look outside is fabulous. Everything is clean and new and it's just quite exciting.  A new year, a new start," said Johnson.

While the interior of the school will be ready by January fifth, work on the playground, pavilions and landscaping won't start until February.  Crews are also widening roads around the campus. The entire project costs about $17.5 million.

©2009 WLOX. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.