GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - While most districts throughout South Mississippi started school the first week of August, students in Gulfport didn't have to go back to class until Monday. Starting next year, other public school students in Mississippi will also get longer summer vacations.
On Monday, Gulfport became the last school district in South Mississippi to welcome back students. At Anniston Elementary, it was like any other first day of school.
"Everything is so great!" said fifth grade teacher Suzanne Valdez. "We've painted our classrooms, got the campus looking good. Our students are so excited. I'm so excited to start a brand new year."
Many students enjoyed their extra two weeks of summer break.
"I played on Xbox and I played with my friends," said fifth grader Nathan Fox.
"I spent a lot of time with my friends that aren't in school," said fifth grader Katlynn Swank.
Next year, other public schools in Mississippi will also start later. That's when a new state law will go into effect, pushing back the start of school to the third Monday in August or later.
Gulfport made the change this year. With new academic programs being implemented, the district wanted to give teachers and students time to adjust. The goal is to help everyone make a smoother transition next year.
"It really hasn't been that bad, but it's given us more time in our classroom to get ready for the students this year," said Valdez. "We won't actually finish the first semester until the week after we get back from Christmas break. But that will give us some time for the testing with Common Core (State Standards). So it'll all work out."
And you won't hear any complaints from her fifth graders. When asked how it felt to stay home while everyone else went back to school, Nathan replied, "I felt pretty special and it felt good."
"That was really fun. I think it was a good idea, because we need more time to be able to do whatever we want," said Katlynn. "We got extra summer and most schools didn't get that."
By starting school later, finals will be pushed back, and the district's 5,800 students won't get out of school until May 30th.