Iberia Parish public schools began the 2019-2020 school year Friday. But for Belle Place Elementary School, it was the very first first day of school.

The new school opened its doors to students for the first time Friday, in part replacing the former Dodson Elementary which closed in the spring.

Principal Angela Louviere, unfortunately, was not able to share in the experience. She was attending her son’s college graduation.

“As educators, when something like that comes up we have to be there,” said Iberia Parish Superintendent of Schools Carey Laviolette, who took Louviere’s place for the day. “It’s part of who we are.”

As the day began at 8 a.m., students gathered under the school’s pavilion, joking and catching up after the summer break. Many wore Belle Place Elementary School Knights T-shirts, some with matching temporary tattoos to show their school spirit.

The social time ended as teachers took control of their students.

“If you aren’t talking, raise your hand!” said Paula Saravia, one of the half-dozen faculty members on the pavilion. “Raise your hands!”

After a moment, hands started going up as silence fell. Saravia showed the students where they would line up each day after arriving, organizing the students by grade and class so they could move into the school.

The shiny floors and still-reeking-of-fresh-paint hallways were quiet as the students moved in, a light rumble of mixed conversations breaking out as the children waited outside their classrooms for their teachers to bring them in.

“It won’t have that new school smell for long,” said one teacher, monitoring the traffic in one of the intersections with two other teachers. “It’s a far sight better than Dodson smelled, that’s for sure.”

Across the campus, Laviolette picked up the microphone to begin the morning announcements. First, though, came the pledge of allegiance and a short period of silence.

Saravia walked in at that point, taking over the microphone for a few administrative announcements and to go over the school’s motto — BRAVE, for Be safe, Respect, Always be prepared, Value obedience and Experience success.

“The teachers came up with that,” said one of the clerks.

At least on day one, it seemed like the students were taking the motto to heart.

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