GOODMAN, Mo. — Amid all the new rooms, features, colors and fixtures at Goodman Elementary School, it was something old that caught Deana Bunch's eye: a picture of Uncle Roger, who was a graduate from the old Goodman High School.
In another picture, she recognized two of her former teachers. Her husband, David, also recognized many faces. They pointed them out to granddaughter Ady Bunch, who is enrolled as a prekindergarten student at the school this year.
"It means a lot that they rebuilt this," David Bunch said Tuesday during an open house. "They did a wonderful job, and we're very grateful to the board. This will help keep our little town up and running."
For the first time, the new building was filled with more children and parents than teachers and construction workers during the open house, which gave students a chance to see their new classrooms, meet their teachers and check out new features such as the library, a makerspace attached to a courtyard, and an exploration lab.
The school has 16 regular classrooms and also has a room for a prekindergarten program — more than enough space to house about 300 students.
And there's room to grow, said Principal Samantha Hamilton.
"We have already enrolled 35 new kids since open enrollment started," Hamilton said. "Our rooms are now bigger than before, and they feature an alternative classroom design, so there's a lot of room to learn."
A tornado in April 2017 destroyed the old building. The school's students were moved to Neosho Middle School while construction began and while an insurance disagreement was settled. Ground was broken on the one-year anniversary of the building's destruction. The about $11 million project was designed by Sapp Design Associates and built by Branco Enterprises.
The building is loaded with features designed specifically for children, Hamilton said.
"We wanted this to be a place where kids would want to be," Hamilton said. "It was designed with student learning in mind."
Hadlee Steele, 9, an incoming fourth grader, was impressed with what she saw in the third school building she's been to. She picked out her seat Tuesday in teacher Shelly Capps' classroom.
"I'm super excited," she said. "I couldn't wait for school. I want to see the library. I love reading."
Capps said the students she talked to were just as thrilled.
"The kids are excited about a new place," Capps said. "But even better, we can call this ours. We're not borrowing anything anymore."
Teachers wore baseball shirts with blue sleeves — a nod to colors and history — and the message "There's no place like home."
Jeff Buttles watched daughter Liberty settle into her classroom, where she talked about how much she anticipated studying science, math and reading. A Goodman resident who lives only three doors away from the school, he was concerned about the building being ready.
On Tuesday, he was relieved.
"It means a lot, and I'm relieved to see they did such a good job," Buttles said. "I didn't think they'd make the deadline."
But even if it had been late, it likely wouldn't have mattered to Buttles or other community members, who were thrilled to see the school return to its former site. Hamilton said at one point the board considered finding a location that wasn't as close to train tracks, but tradition won out.
Meghan Steele, who is a former student and former PTO president of the school, said she was heartbroken about the thought of the school not being rebuilt at its current site. She pointed out how a trophy case featured bricks from the old and new schools, and how each classroom had a brick from the old school, was a good tribute to the school's history.
While community members were happy with its pieces of the past, Hamilton said kids were excited for their future in the building.
"We learned that a building doesn't make us who we are," Hamilton said of the last few years. "But to have a place we can call our own, designed the way we want, is exciting. There's no place like home."