You can call it the first day of school all over again for hundreds of students displaced by a fire at Tuckahoe Elementary.
Students started class again, about 20 minutes away from their school, at Short Pump Middle School Thursday.
To prepare for the big day, parents met Wednesday night at Short Pump Middle School to learn just how the changes will affect their students. School administrators say they've made adequate preparations to accommodate all of the students, making 31 classrooms available.
Fire officials say due to all of the smoke and soot, it will take three more weeks before Tuckahoe's building will be ready or use again.
"The fire itself was fairly small, but it produced a tremendous amount of soot, black smoke and fine particular matter, and that stuff gets into everything," said Captain Jim Mellon of Henrico Fire & EMS.
Out of 700 Tuckahoe kids, more than half ride the school bus. That's about 10 buses that will have to travel an extra 20 to 25 minutes to get to Short Pump Middle.
Parents and teachers have no choice but to follow.
"Coming up here, it's a little bit out of the way. We understand the situation, so it's just something we have to roll with," said parent, Tom Snopik.
"I think it's just one of those things where you have to be flexible and be able to make the best of the situation, and I think the Tuckahoe teachers are ready to do that," said Tuckahoe teacher, Michelle White.
The next several weeks will be a big adjustment, especially for the kids. Henrico Fire officials were at the meeting to explain, the ceiling tiles are being replaced and there's still a lot of cleaning to do.
As the extra school buses rolled in, students marveled at the thought of extra friends joining them on campus.
"Fun," 7th grader Taevon Dent said with a smile.
He says news of Tuckahoe joining his classmates at Short Pump Middle was the conversation of the week.
"They've just been saying that they're coming over here to the 7th grade hall and stuff," he explained.
While he's excited to have them, he had one question for the younger students.
"Are you fine about your school and everything else? That's just horrible. It's just horrible," he said with concern.
School staff and even Henrico firefighters were on hand to help the students feel at ease as they arrived to the middle school.
"We offered last night that we would have some crews out here this morning just to help direct the kids," said Capt. James Mellon.
Once dropped off Thursday morning, the students gathered in the school's gymnasium before heading off to their temporary classrooms.
"It was very smooth. The students seemed to be excited. The buses got here on time," said Deputy Superintendent Patrick Kinlaw.
Kinlaw did a walk-through of the campus once the students were settled in. He says he's pleased with everything he saw.
"Teaching and learning is continuing," he said.
And though this will be their new home for the next few weeks, at least the elementary students have some older friends to let them know everything will be alright.
"That school is huge. We have a bunch of extra classes…there's a lot of space," Dent added.
Since Short Pump is about eight miles away from Tuckahoe, school started about 10 minutes later Thursday and ended 20 minutes earlier to make sure that first day in new territory went off without a hitch.
To help with the transition, administrators say Short Pump Middle will start school a little later and end a little earlier. They are hoping more students will arrive by school bus so that the drop off lines won't be too long.
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