FULTONDALE, Ala. (WIAT) — The new Fultondale High School opened its doors to students almost one week into the school year Monday.

School officials say there were a few ‘minor items’ that took longer to pass inspection which caused a slight delay for in-person instruction.

Principal Stephanie Robinson said it has been quite the journey since a tornado destroyed the old Fultondale High School over two years ago.

She said their school family is so excited to call this new state of the art building home, adding it’s full of opportunity for the arts, health sciences, business, dual enrollment and more.

“Those opportunities just begin to grow and flourish, and when you actually tell a child you can do anything, you can be anything, they believe it, and this is going to help solidify that,” said Robinson. “This is your time now. There’s nothing holding you back. There’s nothing stopping us. The darkness brought us to the light.”

Superintendent Dr. Walter Gonsoulin said they’re overjoyed, but it’s been stressful making sure the new building opened this school year.

“But everybody worked together, and we kept hoping and believing, and you know we put together a product that everybody’s proud of,” said Dr. Gonsoulin.  

School officials said two gyms, a band room and a choir room are still under construction, but those projects left to complete were already made known to the public ahead of time.

Students had the chance to take in this new building for the first time at Sunday’s open house. Tatyana Ruffin, junior, was emotional revealing how grateful she and her classmates are to finally be home again.

Since the tornado, staff and students have been forced to make do at Warrior Elementary School. Ruffin said this building brings so much joy to a community that’s lost so much.

She said their school family faced the unknown together and this building is a physical representation of their perseverance.

“It is community, it is people, it is family representing the entire… representing Alabama,” said Ruffin. “This upcoming October, we get to go to NASCAR in front of thousands of people for marching band representing Alabama. Just know that when you see that orange, blue and white, it’s not Auburn, it’s Fultondale and we’re here.”

Ruffin said she’s looking forward to enjoying all the opportunities this new school will bring, especially Friday night football and marching band with her friends.

Although the rest of the school district opened for in-person classes last week, Fultondale Police say traffic flow in and out of the new high school will likely still be hectic over the next couple of days.

They said the entrance on North Pine Hill Road is tight. Plus, there’s still some construction and homeowners in the area.

Fultondale Police said it’s important for all drivers to slow down, avoid any phone distractions, and follow all directions officers provide.

“Super excited about it, everyone’s been asking questions about it,” said Sgt. John Tanks with Fultondale Police Department. “The number one question right now is the traffic, and you know, just like we always tell them, ‘Hey, if your kid went to Fultondale Elementary, the same protocol applies.’ Slow down, be patient, and it’ll all work out.”

Sgt. Tanks said Fultondale officers and Jefferson County deputies will be present to help guide traffic in and around the school.