The doors at Lexington's new Wellington Elementary School opened at 7:09 a.m. Thursday, and students and parents poured into the building for the first time as Fayette County Public Schools started classes for the 2011-2012 school year.
Students had only a few minutes to "ooh" and "ahh" over Wellington's bright colors and new features, however, before getting down to the business of finding their classrooms and starting the new year.
"I think things are going pretty smoothly," Wellington principal Meribeth Gaines said. "Opening a brand new school is special. The neat thing for the children is that nobody has to worry about being the new kid. We are all new."
Overall, district officials said that, other than customary minor glitches expected on the opening day of classes, things went smoothly Thursday morning.
District spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall said that as of 8:30 a.m., officials had not received a single phone call about a problem.
For Gaines, Thursday's opening was the culmination of almost two years of waiting and working. Gaines was named principal of the new school in January 2010, before construction had begun and a school name was selected. The school cost more than $16 million.
Gaines said Wellington was expecting about 525 students Thursday morning; the school can hold 650 students.
More than 38,000 children will attend the Fayette schools this year, district officials said, as enrollment in the county system continues to grow. The district had just over 33,700 students as recently as 2004-2005.
Wellington, one of two new schools joining the county system this term, is loaded with "green" features in keeping with the district's growing emphasis on sustainability.
Solar tubes collect and focus sunlight into the building to supplement electric lighting and save on utility costs. Windows are oriented to make maximum use of daylight.
Rainwater from the school's roof is routed into an underground 50,000-gallon storage tank. It will be used to flush toilets, reducing the building's city water costs.
Sustainability also will be integrated into the curriculum at Wellington, with students studying energy-saving concepts and competing to find ways to conserve energy, Gaines says.