Caroline, a third-grader at Amherst Elementary, is ready for the first day of school.

"Oh my word...really excited," she said. "I think it's gonna be fun!"

She joins thousands of other students across Knox, Loudon and Hawkins counties, as well as Oneida City Schools heading back on Monday. But for the students, it takes a village to make sure each of them looks forward to that first day.

"It's always fun. Just the excitement of it," Principal Sharon Yarbrough said.

Yarbrough has worked 31 years at Amherst.

A few doors down, a committee self-named the "hot air committee" blows up balloons to make the entrances of Amherst more welcoming for students and parents.

"We thought surely we could handle this first thing in the morning," long-time school librarian Pam Morris said.

As for the name hot air committee...

"Well just the friends around me have a lot of important things to say and so do I and that's all there is to it," Morris said.

Further down the hall, Staci Campbell, a teacher of 19 years puts the finishing touches on her room just before her students arrive.

"If you don't get a little nervous something's wrong with you," she said. "I really get more excited than nervous."

As principal Yarbrough gets ready to make her first morning announcement of the year, numerous other parents, teachers and principals around East Tennessee work together to make sure that every student's first day is a meaningful one.

"Good morning Amherst and welcome to our first day of school," Yarbrough calls over the intercom. "I hope you have a fabulous, wonderful day."