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School's In Students, Staff Return
Some shedding tears - parents as well as children - the kindergarten class at Dent Elementary made its way through the doors of the school that will serve as the springboard for their education.

Monday, Aug. 16 was the start of the 2010-2011 school year for the Escalon Unified School District and teachers and students alike swarmed the various campuses, getting back to the school routine.

"It was a very hectic day," said new District Superintendent Ron Costa.

He and new assistant superintendent Joel Johannsen -formerly principal at Escalon High - headed out about 8 a.m. Monday and made visits to every school in the district. Those include Escalon High, Sierra View independent study and Vista continuation, El Portal Middle School and Dent Elementary in town, in addition to the outlying elementary campuses of Van Allen, Farmington and Collegeville.

"Joel and I spent all day out at the classrooms, talking with teachers, meeting students, we visited 50 to 60 classrooms," Costa said.

First day numbers showed a drop in enrollment from last year but Costa said those numbers will fluctuate, especially during the first week, as students that might not have made it the first day start to filter in.

"As we start to add school days, we start to see the numbers go up," he said.

Officials aren't too concerned yet about the drop in enrollment, Costa noted, since the numbers will take a few days to stabilize. Costa said he will have a better idea on a firm enrollment figure by the end of the week.

All elementary schools welcomed students back and it was a special day for those youngsters starting kindergarten, with the excitement evident on the Dent campus.

"I think I'll like eating lunch and playing," new kindergarten student Shelby Popplewell, 5, said as she played in the sand pile with friend Bella Suriano, 4.

Both girls said they were looking forward to school and learning.

"She's my last child," mom Rachel Suriano said of Bella, now joining her older siblings in school. "It's hard. She's fine ... I'm not."

After getting his name tag and having a family photo taken for the classroom, Sam Hinojosa, 4, was also feeling good and looking forward to one thing.

"Eating," he said.

Mom Terren Hinojosa chuckled as she also took a 'first day' photo of her son.

"He's so concerned about his lunch," she explained.

Sam did add he thought "writing will be the most fun" part of kindergarten for him.

"I'm a little bit sad," his mom admitted. "Trying to hold back tears."

Younger brother Ramon, 14 months, will still be at home.

"He's pretty excited about riding the bus," dad Sam Sr. said. "He's been ready (for school) for a while."

Emily Vickers had a very memorable first day, entering kindergarten with a couple of missing teeth, including one she lost the night before starting classes.

Mom Joyce noted that Emily was the second of her three children to start school and said it was a bit easier this time.

Costa said reports from all sites were that opening day overall ran smoothly for students and staff.

"The schools were all very busy, very positive," said Costa.