BUFORD -- Joy Davis was up well before dawn Thursday. Excitement about Buford's first day of school pulled her from her bed.
At 3:45 a.m., she responded to a text message sent a half-hour earlier from the superintendent. By 4 a.m., she was sitting down to write some e-mails, leaving plenty of time for the principal of Buford Academy to get to the elementary school to greet the 1,000-plus students arriving for the new school year.
"Nobody sleeps the night before (the first day of school), because we're as excited as the kids are," Davis said. "I am thrilled for them to come back."
Dalton Perkins, a fourth-grader, said he was up early because his brother had to go to the middle school. (Buford Middle starts at 7:30 a.m., 55 minutes before the bell rings at Buford Academy and Buford Elementary School.)
Dalton said he was glad to be back in school "because learning makes you smart," and he said he wanted "to be a smart student."
Shortly after the school day began, Davis greeted Buford City Schools Superintendent Geye Hamby in the front hallway of the school. It was 8:30 a.m., and Hamby had already visited each classroom at Buford High School and Buford Middle School.
Hamby took off on his trek through Buford Academy at a lightning-quick pace. He poked his head into every classroom, greeting each teacher by name and saying good morning to the students. When he stopped by his son's fourth-grade class, Forbes jumped up to give his father a quick hug.
"I've always made an effort to visit every classroom on the first day of school," Hamby said. "I like to see the faces of our students and the faces of the community."
One thing Hamby said he looks at on his tour of each school is the student-teacher ratio in each classroom.
"I see if it's a comfortable fit for Buford, Georgia," he said.
About 3,100 students are expected to attend school in the small city school district. Based on attendance on the first day, Hamby said the school system's projection appears to be on target.
"The first day is going absolutely fantastic," he said. "All our bus routes went very well. We have wonderful principals, and our principals, teachers, faculty and staff do a phenomenal job of making sure everybody is where they need to be.
"We're very fortunate in our school system to have the support of our city and the support of our community."
Elizabeth Darden, a senior at Buford High School, said the sense of community is one thing she likes about the school system she has attended since she was in kindergarten.
"I love Buford," she said. "I like that everyone knows everyone. All the teachers know me."
Darden said she was excited and nervous when she woke up Thursday. She was looking forward to the impact she hopes to make at school this year, but she was a little worried about the summer work she had to complete for the four Advanced Placement classes she's taking this year.
"It's kind of weird (that it's) the last (one) of my first days of schools," she said.