ST. MARTIN, MS (WLOX) – It is registration time for St. Martin schools and thousands of students are getting their pictures and paperwork in order. Registration week came late this year, because construction on the new St. Martin High School ran two months behind schedule.
"Towards the end of May, we were hoping to start moving. But when you're dealing with construction, there are always the unknowns. So last week, we were given the permission to go ahead and start moving," said Jackson County Schools Superintendent Dr. Barry Amacker.
And with school starting next Thursday, that gives teachers just two weeks to unpack and set up their classrooms. But you won't hear much complaining from the staff.
"We are so excited. It's amazing!" said Vocational Teacher Robin Pate. "I've never taught at a school this big before and we seem to be growing more and more every year, so we're just thrilled."
The 185,000 square foot, two-story building features 78 classrooms, large labs and a massive courtyard. The gym has custom touches, like the school initials painted on the concrete bleachers. And the cafeteria has three serving lines, with a conveyor system to move dirty lunch trays. Even the hallway has a unique design.
"It's over a football field in length," said St. Martin Schools Assistant Superintendent Dr. Michael Van Winkle. "They designed it as the administrators come out the end of the building, and look both ways, they can see down both hallways."
Some construction may still be going on when students set foot on campus next week. For the district, the new school means a fresh start after so much devastation.
"We feel like when the bell rings the first day of school, that Katrina is over for us, because not only will our kids be occupying this new building here, but the students from the Middle School and Upper Elementary will be occupying renovated buildings as well. The kids will be out of the portables and it's a signal that Katrina is over and we survived."
The new $42 million St. Martin High School can also be used as a storm shelter. The walls and windows are reinforced. If it loses power, the campus has its own generator, water well, and sewer system.
The St. Martin Middle and Upper Elementary students will move into the two buildings at the old high school. Those buildings are being renovated to accommodate the younger children.