The calendar said Jan. 3, but forget about that. Friday was the first day of school at Lexington Park Elementary in St. Mary's County.

The school finally opened last week after two years of construction. Students and staff had been crammed into temporary trailers on Great Mills Road while awaiting completion of the expansion and renovation project.

Principal Elfreda Mathis stood under a basketball hoop in the newly refurbished gymnasium. Hundreds of students who had been busily chatting about holiday vacations and what their new classrooms would look like quieted down.

"This is a special day," Mathis said. "Today is the first day in our new school. I'm really excited about that. Finally we're here. Are we happy?"

"Yes," came a half-hearted reply from the students.

Mathis tried again. "Are we happy?"

"Yeees," the students said with a little more feeling,

"Are we happy?" she said, still searching.

"Yee-ees!" came the full-throated reply.

Virginia Fusaro, a third-grade teacher, now has a classroom with two windows and storage space, plus several computers.

Her students murmured that the room was bright. And now they have cubbyholes where they hang up their coats and store their book bags.

"Things were all over the place" in the annex, Fusaro said. "I think their behavior will be much easier here. Things are a lot more structured. Everything has its place."

Moving is about the details, and building service manager William Thompson was responsible for keeping track of thousands of them. The last day of school before winter vacation was the first day that maintenance staff from Lexington Park and other schools began moving items into the new building.

"We basically worked every day except Christmas and New Year's," he said.

Public school students in the rest of St. Mary's County returned to school Thursday, but Lexington Park students were given an extra day of winter break as the work of moving continued.

School secretary Patricia Davidson made an announcement over the loudspeaker to the teachers before the students arrived Friday morning.

"Please mark where you want your pencil sharpener placed," she said.

"That hasn't been done yet," Thompson said, "but it will be by today."

The day began early with a gaggle of adults who hovered in the front lobby: the superintendent, members of the school board and other school district staff. They made a banner -- "Welcome Back LPES" -- and hung it on the wall.

By 8:41 a.m. the first adult and child pair wandered into the lobby's busy scene.

"It's great, beautiful," said Tammy Adkins, 42, who brought her nephew Tyler Clark, 10, to school.

Every child went on a tour of the building. They looked wide-eyed as they walked on the cream and beige speckled tiles. They touched the matching painted walls as if that would reveal a secret.

Miesha Thomas, 8, a third-grader, marveled at the cafeteria.

"Oh, my God, it's got a big stage," she said excitedly. "I'll be singing up there."

In this place, Miesha could safely hatch her plans. The new Lexington Park Elementary is open, for good.

Students at Lexington Park Elementary returned to a renovated school on Friday after their holiday break.Principal Elfreda Mathis watches with excitement as students and their parents catch their first glimpse of the new building. Kindergarten students at Lexington Park Elementary School recite the Pledge of Allegiance Friday in their new, improved classroom.Secretary Patricia Davidson, above left, and Superintendent Patricia M. Richardson help kindergartner Stormie Rotsolk. Right, fourth-grader Nakia Dupree unpacks.