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Emotional return to school for excited Louisa students sick of learning ‘outside’

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LOUISA COUNTY, Va. -  After three school years in mobile units, walking to and from classrooms in the elements, 560 elementary school students in Louisa County started their first day of school in a brand new building.

Thomas Jefferson Elementary was badly damaged in 5.8 magnitude earthquake centered near Mineral, Virginia in 2011.  Students, faculty and administration were moved into a less-than-ideal temporary classrooms until school repairs were complete.

Some students attending Thomas Jefferson have never had a school building to call their own.

Thomas Jefferson principal Candace Wilkerson began her job only 10 days before the massive earthquake.

"Some parents were here as early as 7:10 a.m. or 7:15 a.m., so everybody is really excited about us being in a new building," Wilkerson said.  "I almost got a little teary when I walked through the hallway and saw my children in a building instead of being outside."

"We're a resilient community here [in Louisa]," Dr. Deborah Pettit, superintendent of Lousia County Schools, said. "We're all very proud; we're a 'can-do' kind of community."

Completion of a brand new high school, which was also damaged in the 2011 earthquake, is expected by the beginning of next school year.