A line of sixth- and seventh-graders look to Dan Bartels, the principal of Omaha's new Davis Middle School.
The young Aviators, the school's mascot, tell Bartels their names, and he, like an airplane ramp agent, directs them on Wednesday, the first day of class ever at the school.
“Up those stairs, around and to the left,” Bartels directs one student.
The students' missions begin now, Bartels will tell them later in a gym assembly. But the missions will have some turbulence.
The school is named after Alfonza W. Davis, the first black Omahan to earn fighter pilot wings at Tuskegee Army Air Field.
It is one of four new schools that opened this week in the metro area. The Omaha Public Schools also opened Gateway Elementary in South Omaha, and Elkhorn opened two elementaries, West Bay and Sagewood. All opened without significant problems.
First days at a brand-new school, especially one like Davis in the middle of bean fields and cornstalks, come with more than a few false starts.
“A note to staff,” Bartels says over the intercom. “The majority of our buses have not arrived yet.”
The time is 7:45 a.m., five minutes after classes were to begin.
Down the hall, students begin the annual battle to open their lockers.
“Can you help me?” one girl says to the first adult she sees, her flushed cheeks showing her despair.
Across the hall and a little while later, though, progress.
A girl has turned the knob back and forth and slipped her hand under the locker handle. Success.
“I got it!” she says to herself. “Yes!” she says with a double fist pump.
In the school's main office, an older sibling stops by to leave some cash for her sister: Lunch money.
“She already forgot,” the sister says.
It is almost 9 a.m. now at Davis, near 132nd and State Streets. The school is one of the northernmost schools in OPS. So far north that it is hard to find.
Google Maps will direct you to a housing subdivision if you type in the school's address, 8050 N. 129th Ave.
Dozens of children still have not showed, and Felicia Thielen, the school secretary, has had numerous conversations trying to track down the missing pupils.
Finally, at 9:09 a.m., an hour and a half late, bus No. 53 parks in front of the office. Seventeen kids hurry through the school's glass doors and wait for someone to tell them where to go.
“We went to Iowa!” a kid says.
“We went swimming!” another says.
“We went all over,” another says.
In truth, they have accidentally visited Boys Town, seven miles south of Davis, and, to their surprise, experienced one last summer adventure.