Students who return this fall to Mulberry Elementary in Houma will be greeted by 18 new classrooms and other upgrades.
Parents, teachers, officials and students celebrated the $13.3 million expansion's completion during a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday evening.
Other improvements include a new band room, cafeteria and area where buses and cars can pick up and drop off students.
Parents had pushed for the upgrades to relieve overcrowding at the school. The new classrooms replace portable buildings used for years.
"I walked in and the first thing I thought was 'it's immense,' " said Terrebonne Parish public schools Superintendent Philip Martin, speaking of the cafeteria. "You can never have them too big."
Martin, who is retiring Thursday after 15 years as superintendent and four decades as a local educator, said it was great to see the project finished.
"Many things we do in education, in fact most things we do, are not tangible," he said. "An education is something that's valuable and can result in tangible things, but the education itself is not tangible. ... Building a school — it's tangible, it's real, it's used. You see the benefit of it every day."
The school enrolled roughly 900 students before Hurricane Ida, and Principal Dene' Cunningham said that dropped by about 150 students after the storm. With the additions, bringing the total to 46 classrooms, Mulberry can handle about 1,500 students and its faculty and staff of 75.
The old cafeteria will be converted into a new library and two classrooms. The former library be converted to two additional classrooms.
Cunningham said she expected most parents will like the new student drop-off and pick-up site, which wraps behind the building instead of blocking Cougar Drive in front of the school.
"It was a very big concern for the community that our car line was always parked on the road," she said. "It was a danger to block Cougar Drive, so now we have an elongated loop area."
Touring the new classrooms with their two children, Joey and Allyson Crispino said it's nice to have the new additions. Allyson is a secretary for the school. Their son Joshua will be in in third grade and daughter Emerson in first.
Joshua got to see his brand new classroom Tuesday.
"It's big," he said. "And it's pretty."
— Courier and Daily Comet Executive Editor Keith Magill can be reached at 857-2201 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @CourierEditor.