First Coast Students Head Back After Katrina

Students at St. James Elementary in Gulfport headed back to the classrooms on Monday. The Catholic school is the first school to resume on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The student body looks a little different than it did before Hurricane Katrina.

With St. Thomas in Long Beach destroyed, Brooke Holley is making new friends at a new school St. James Elementary.

"It's fun," said Brooke."There's a lot of things to do, and I like it."

Sister Kathleen showed Brooke and another student displaced by Katrina around her first grade classroom.

"I want to make them feel at home," said Sister Kathleen. "It's a new beginning for them which is very hard after they have just made a new beginning in their other schools."

School officials say there are about 40 new faces at St. James. The parents of these new arrivals appreciate the warm welcome.

Kimberly Jackson enrolled her children.

"We came up to the school today and a little girl said 'Hi, welcome to St. James, we're glad you're here.' It was just wonderful because for kids it gives them an opportunity to reach out to other kids."

By staying on the coast and enrolling their children in local schools, some people say they are doing their part in the recovery process.

"I think its part of being a solution," said Dawn Power whose daughter now attends St. James. "I'm not leaving. She's not going to leave and we're going to help rebuild and if I can give to the community by enrolling her in school and giving to the community then that's what I'm going to do."

Teachers realize many of their students have lost their homes and schools and will need time to adjust.

"Bringing them into an environment where they have the other children to talk and share with each other and I hope to do a lot of drawing, acting out, talking, that they will get back into the routine and feel a lot more secure and a lot more comfortable," Sister Kathleen said.

Students at Sacred Heart High School in Hattiesburg also headed back to class Monday. Officials say five more coast Catholic Schools are slated to start next week including St. John High in Gulfport.