It was something everyone missed in 2020.
There was no formal ‘opening day’ of school for the Escalon Unified School District in August last year; like most schools it opened the year in a virtual setting, with students at home for distance learning.
For the start of the 2021-22 school year, however, school buses were on the move, parents were dropping off students and there were plenty of hugs, smiles and tears.
There was a little separation anxiety for some, taking their child to school for the first time on Thursday, Aug. 12.
“I was fine until about 10 minutes ago,” admitted tearful mom Sam, watching her son Stryder Oglevee play on the Dent playground with newly made friends before heading into his kindergarten classroom.
For young Stryder, on campus just a few minutes, he already had picked his favorite part of the school day.
“The playground,” he said, dashing off to climb the ladder and slide down the slide.
Elsewhere, teachers were welcoming students in to the kindergarten classrooms, with name tags at the ready, hooks for their backpacks and lots of bright colors visible to enhance the learning experience.
Techer Emily Scott, in her fourth year at Dent and third teaching kindergarten, said the day felt “phenomenal” and she couldn’t wait to get started.
“When I came in over the summer and saw my tables, looking like a real classroom, I almost cried,” she said, noting that even when kids returned to campus during the school year in 2020-21, the set up was far from traditional, with social distancing in place.
Now, she said, things are slowly getting back to normal. Her room is decorated in a ‘Bee’ theme, which she said the kids find fun and she uses it to springboard to several lessons.
“It is so fun when the kids come in, they are just as excited as usual,” she said. “But of course in kindergarten, there are always a couple of kids that will miss mom.”
She said they usually adjust pretty quickly, as they are busy every day and there is always something new to learn.
Five-year-old Fernando Poc-Martinez quickly found his name tag and the hook for his backpack.
“He’s my first one,” mom Luc said of bringing him to kindergarten and feeling the anxiety. “I want to cry.”
Students and teachers at all grade levels were hustling on Thursday morning, making sure they were in place and ready for a day of learning.
“We’re doing it, we’re doing it,” a happy Dent Principal Anthony Varni said, rushing from classroom to classroom.
The scene was repeated on all campuses, including Van Allen, Collegeville and Farmington elementary schools, as well as El Portal Middle School and Escalon High.
“We are slightly down, a few kids,” District Superintendent Ron Costa said of the earliest numbers, noting that it fluctuates early on and they should have a better idea of enrollment this week.
“Kids were excited to be back, happy, we saw smiling faces,” he added of hearing from sites around the district. “Mask wearing (required indoors) did not seem to be an issue and I am proud of our staff, they all worked hard to get things going.”