School bells rang out across Walton County on Wednesday, alerting students back to the classroom. Kids are trading in their surfboards for backpacks on the first day of classes; a day mixed with both nerves and excitement.
At Bay Elementary school in south Walton County, little Gracie Gardener sprang ahead of her parents and brother to Ms. Daniel's kindergarten class.
Inside, she fearlessly swings her feet in her brand new desk and offers a wave to brand new friends.
Outside, mother, Alecia Gardener, is not quite as stoic.
"A little emotional. It's bittersweet," said a tearful Gardener.
But Gardner knows what this day means in the life of her daughter. It's one filled with endless possibilities. Her whole life is laid out in front of her, starting with a large hair bow and an even bigger smile.
"Just seeing how much they learn, how much they change, from the first day to the last day, it's kind of amazing," said Gardener.
While the kindergarten class begins one journey, down the street at Emerald Coast Middle School, students continued theirs.
While students busied themselves catching up with friends and finding classes, Principal Charlie Marello took a moment to breath.
"We've grown by leaps and bounds. The enrollment is through the roof. So, it was a little chaotic, but actually smoother than I thought it would be," said Marello.
With a new assortment of rigorous electives on the docket, Marello is excited to prepare his students for high school.
At South Walton High, students didn't skip a beat getting back into the swing of things.
Some may be daydreaming of college applications and Friday night football, but the first day buzz never changes...even when you're the superintendent of schools.
"It really doesn't change. After 37 years, the first day it's that sleepless night. The anticipation, not anxiety but excitement," said Carlene Anderson, Walton Superintendent of Schools.
So, whether you're a hair bow clad kindergartner or high school senior, there's only one thing left to say…welcome back students!
Bay county starts back to school August 20th.