Erath Excels! Academy officially has a campus to call its own.

Previously, the charter school instructed 80-100 students per semester in make-shift accommodations, including facilities that formerly served as a doctor's office, retail store and warehouse.

While the completion of minor projects related to the construction of the new facility, located on Peach Orchard Road (formerly CR 257), delayed the start of the 2010-11 school year by two days, students filed into the campus for the first day of classes Wednesday.

Superintendent Debra Miller was all smiles as she greeted students, and it was a smile that came with an accompanying sigh of relief.

"We finally have a campus to call our own," Miller said, adding that the charter school, now in its 12th year, just finished moving into its fourth and "final" facility.

The cumulative effort of school administrators, school board, community members and a state agency made Miller's dreams of moving into the campus, which was on the drawing board for four years, a reality.

"Today is a dream come true," Miller said, at a groundbreaking event last November when the project first began.

The halls were alive Wednesday, and with 15-20 additional students lining up to sign up on opening day, Miller said she did not have an exact count of the student body, although she said it appeared to be on target with previous years. She also said the head count will increase after the first six weeks have passed, since students attending other schools often enroll after they realize they need an education alternative that offers more individualized, one-on-one instruction.

The campus has a lot to offer to the ninth - 12th grade students and others working to obtain their GED.

A full-service kitchen has more room than the school's lone nutritionist, Mylissa Parham, could have imagined. The kitchen at previous campuses sometimes included little more than a microwave and refrigerator.

"I'm overwhelmed," Parham said. "I'm very excited about stepping up and having more room."

Now in her third year of preparing nutritious meals for EE!A students, Parham was busy preparing a hearty breakfast for students Wednesday.

And gone are the partitions and cubicles that once divided classes at previous locations. Now the school has 11 separate classrooms that each have a SMART board, a full-fledged science lab, plenty of storage space, a lunch room and individual administrative offices.

The facility, which boasts an estimate 14,000 square feet, is twice the space of the last location on US Highway 377.

But it is the little things this school offers that sets it apart from others, particularly a shower for homeless students who have no place to clean up.

Miller said the new campus is not the only change the new year holds for EE!A. Miller said the Stephenville campus will soon unveil its sign and new name, Huston Academy, in honor of a man that school administrators, teachers and students credit with making the new facility a reality.

The construction was also made possible by a loan provided through the USDA Rural Development Program.

The district, which also has a campus in Taft, Shoreline Academy, and instructs students at the Summer Sky treatment facility in Stephenville will still fly the EE!A flag.

The community will have an opportunity to tour the new campus on Monday, Sept. 27, when Huston Academy hosts an open house in conjunction with a Stephenville Chamber of Commerce Chamber mixer.

For more information, call 254-965-8883 or visit the district online at www.erathexcels.org.