PONCHATOULA — Amber Gardner arrived at school just after 7 a.m.
The veteran principal at Tucker Elementary School had worked throughout the weekend, preparing her office and the school for the first day of classes Monday.
After talking with parents inside the school building, Gardner stood outside for about half an hour, helping direct buses and the line of parents streaming in and out of the school, and guiding students on where to go.
All the while, Gardner sported a smile representative of the enthusiasm on the first day.
“They are still babies,” Gardner said as she hugged some of the students and tried to answer questions from others.
The school is home to more than 650 first- and second-grade students.
The morning went off without any major glitches, Gardner said, adding that, “This is probably the smoothest first day we’ve had.”
The day went much the same way for schools throughout the rest of Tangipahoa Parish, Superintendent Mark Kolwe said.
Kolwe projected a first-day enrollment of close to 20,000 students, although he was reluctant to make any enrollment predictions until more numbers come in later this week.
Last year, the school system ended the year with just under 20,000 students, and Kolwe said “several of the schools said they expect to add students.”
“It will be close,” Kolwe said.
Lisa James drove her three children to Tucker Elementary earlier than most and waited with Fuentes James, 8; Latrail James, 7; and Thomas James, 5, on a seat just inside the school building.
“We’re here early this morning but I teach pre-K in Covington,” James said.
James said none of her children had the “jitters” and that they were all excited to start school.
“They didn’t sleep much last night,” James said of her children’s excitement.
“I’m hoping to meet my teachers,” Fuentes quipped.
Courtney and Summer Stevens, both in second grade, said they also were ready to start classes at Tucker Elementary.
The twins, who said they enjoy reading, are looking forward to becoming better readers.
For Dawn Davis, this year’s first day of school was like stepping back in time.
Davis read the list of students’ names on the classroom doors at Tucker Elementary, looking for granddaughter Shayanne Fontenot’s teacher.
“It’s kind of like a tradition,” Davis said. “My sister and I started here. We all went here. This is the third generation.”
While so many things about the school have changed, Davis said, she is hoping that her granddaughter “enjoys it, that her teachers make learning fun and that she wants to continue to learn.”