When the doors opened at Brookside Elementary School on Tuesday morning, the line of parents and students that had been steadily growing outside moved forward to the start of school together, greeted with hugs and high-fives from school administrators.
Students across the Christina School District’s Newark-area schools are heading back to class this week, after a slightly longer summer thanks to an after-Labor Day start. Grades one through six and high school freshmen started Tuesday, with the rest of the students returning to class Wednesday.
“It’s great,” said Eric Stephens, principal of Brookside. “I’m always excited to welcome students back.”
For Stephens, Tuesday marked his 11th first day of school at Brookside, but the day always shepherds in change and transition, he said. For students, they’re entering a new grade, with new teachers and new peers.
“We meet families. They become part of the school and feel comfortable here,” he said. “Thankfully, I have a great staff who know what to do, making it seamless. We’re right back at it.”
For the students, the day was filled with excitement.
“I’m scared. I don’t know why,” Mayra Estudillo, a fifth-grader, noted, but added that overall she was doing good.
She and Anthony Arrige, a third-grader, and Deja Browne, a fifth grader, agreed that they were excited to make new friends.
“I’m excited to make new friends and for the teachers,” Arrige added.
“There’s new subjects to learn,” Estudillo said.
Lewis Torres, a fifth-grader, noted that it’s been a lot of days since the last day of school. His goal for the year, he added, is “making the teachers proud.”
Denise Rosiles, a fifth-grader, was already looking forward to middle school next year. Before that, though, she is excited about getting to write more this year.
“It’s an important subject for me. I like it more,” she said.
Fifth-grader Jesus Rosiles was looking forward to math – “because it’s easy for me,” he added.
Looking ahead to this year and beyond, he hoped for good grades and to see his friends.
“I’m kind of excited,” he said. “I’m going to middle school and learn more stuff.”
“The kids are great,” Stephens said after the halls had cleared out, with the kids settled into their first classes of the day. “I’m looking forward to a great school year.”
Meanwhile at Shue-Medill Middle School, the newly minted sixth-graders were getting acclimated to their new building without the upperclassmen there just yet.
The initial nerves had mostly settled by the time the students reached lunch.
“In a way, I’m anxious, but it’s been really good,” noted Saniyah Everett.
“I don’t know how I feel,” Tyler Everts added.
Everts, Abby Forshey and Aaron Gonzalez all knew each other from Maclary Elementary School.
“It made me not as nervous,” Forshey said, referring to seeing her peers from elementary school.
“I’m excited to meet new friends and new people and see my old friends,” added Everett.
Natalie Egeberg, said she got a good first impression from Shue.
“I like switching classes and getting to meet new people and teachers,” she said. “I’ve been to a lot of schools, and this is the best school I switched to.”
Xiemna Guzman agreed that the year was off to a good start. The first day, so far, was fun.
“I’m excited to get good grades and try my best,” she said.
Matthew Breeg, Lamar Coleman, Logan Olaniyan, Naeem Jervey and John Kivlin were getting to know each other during lunch.
“I’m excited for science. I like to learn about physics and stuff,” Coleman noted.
His peers agreed that they weren’t really all that nervous starting middle school.
“It’s only school. The two main differences are it’s harder and a new building,” Breeg added.
Making the school less intimidating was part of the goal for the sixth-graders’ first day, Principal Michele Savage noted.
“They’re a little anxious, but we try to make it very fun and warm and inviting so that that anxiety gets relieved as they walk through the door,” she said.
With music playing, the students were greeted in the morning by school staff members and given Hawaiian leis to wear.
Savage said that enrollment is up by about 100, resulting in a sixth-grade class of about 340 kids, for a total of about 940 total Shue students.
“I miss the kids when they’re not here,” she said.
Erin Fahnoe, behavioral health coordinator, recalled that when one mom dropped off her son Monday morning, she confided he was a little nervous because he didn’t know where to go.
“And I said, ‘All you have to do is get to the front door. We got you from there. Just get out of the car and go to the front door,’” Fahnoe said. “He’s like, ‘I can do that.’”