School principal Stephanie Yeager says her teachers and students are like family, and now Central Elementary is welcoming in a lot of new members.
There were some changes when classes started back up in Pascagoula on Thursday. Teachers and students from the heavily damaged Beach Elementary are now at Central Elementary. There are challenges and rewards to having two schools under one roof.
Robert Senacal says his family has moved ten times. The latest move was onto a cruise ship in Mobile. His family lost their Gulfport home to Katrina. He was so excited to be among more than a dozen South Mississippi children bussed into Pascagoula to attend school that he woke up extra early.
"I like school so much," he said. "That's why I woke up at 2:30 to get up in time for the bus."
Third grade teacher Donna Stratton's old classroom was at Beach Elementary. Her new one is at Central Elementary. Her students come from both schools. The principals and faculty from Beach & Central are working hard to make the merger work.
"If you're here for the children and other people are too it just kind of joins together," said Stratton.
Central principal Stephanie Yeager said, "Anytime that two people come together, you have a little bit of the territorial and you're unsure at how it's going to work. But it has actually been wonderful. Monday, when both staffs came in they embraced each other and started working together."
All the teachers and counselors want to see children, who've seen so much devastation, smile again.
"We care about every child that walks in that building, whether we knew you beforehand or not." said Yeager. "When you walk in that door, you're mine. We're their at-school family. That's how we treat them and that's how we love them."
Robert's family will move again when they find temporary housing. For now, he's glad to have a place to belong.
"Just that I've got a place to be," said Robert.
Beach Elementary is expected to be open again next fall. In the meantime, the principals from Beach and Central Elementaries are sharing the duties. One will oversee Kindergarten through 2nd grade and the other third through fifth.