GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Even before the doors opened at the new 28th Street Elementary School, more than a dozen parents and students lined up outside. Nine-year-old Breeanna Daniels and her dad were the first to show up.
"I wanted to be the first one to get in school. I wanted my dad to walk around it before school started," said the fourth grader.
Five-year-old Kaleb Williams was bright-eyed and ready for his first day in Kindergarten.
"He was in bed before I told him to get in bed, very excited waiting to see his new school. He didn't know anything about his Spiderman backpack or what he had in it," said Kaleb's dad Kendall Williams.
"Hi! Do you know where your class is?" the principal asked students as they approached the entrance.
At 7:00 a.m., the doors opened and the bus dropped off its first load of students.
Mekaylia Stallworth's parents and grandmother came with her to check out the school. When asked about her new school, Mekaylia responded, "I like it. It's big."
"The school is beautiful," said her mom Marie Sheppard. "We're real excited about it. It's been a long time coming. I think the kids are going to feel really good. Some positive energy going on here, so this is great."
For fourth grade teacher Angela August, the new school brought a flood of emotions.
"I'm just excited about it," said August. "I got a great group of students, and a new adventure, a new building. It's emotional, because I know where we were, and I know where we're going. And Katrina has given us a new beginning and a new school."
The children have never had a school to call their very own. When Katrina damaged their old school, they've been split up. Some went to Gaston Point Elementary, and the others attended Central Elementary. The new building means their school family is finally whole again.
"To be back together, it's coming home," said principal Lea Bellon. "It's anchoring us all together, and so it means a lot to everyone in the Gulfport School District, the community. We're just very thrilled to have this opportunity."
The new $13.2 million school is on 46th Avenue. It is 12 blocks west of the old campus. The building was supposed to be ready last December, but construction delays and bad weather postponed the opening.