HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - "Okay, go straight down the hallway," Principal Katie Warren told an excited group of children. "Your very first time at lunch here."
The students spent Monday trying to learn their way around campus and overcoming the jitters of being in a strange, new place. From the colorful cafeteria to more spacious classrooms, it was a lot to take in as students saw their new school for the very first time.
"They got out and they were so excited like, 'Wow! Look at this place! This is ours.' And we're just so excited," said Warren.
"Some of the teachers were crying because they said it was so touching to see these kids coming in like this," she added. "It's hard not to get choked-up on this."
"Oh, I think it's just fantastic to have as good as shape as it's in," said PE teacher Jean Cuevas, as she looked around the huge gymnasium. "I'm used to having to make do with some things, and we got all the space. We got the air conditioning."
West Hancock Elementary School opened on Monday, to relieve overcrowding at Hancock North Central Elementary School. The new school serves children from Highway 603 to the Pearl River County line, an area that has experienced a post-Katrina population explosion. The 84,000 square foot building currently houses 420 students, but has room for up to 750 children.
"Tremendous growth," said Warren. "We have a lot of children from south Louisiana, some children from the coast. We've also had some children come in from the north."
The students come from different backgrounds, but from now on, they're one family. They're all Wildcats.
"Tell the Wildcat [mascot] how you feel about our school," a teacher told her second graders.
"It's great!" they shouted.
"We are trying to form a new identity, this is part of that," said Warren. "I've gone in every classroom this morning and told them, 'Welcome home.' And they say 'Home?' And I said, 'Yeah, you're home. You're home.'"