Dozens of parents sent their children off to school for the first time Tuesday at Riverview Elementary School, marking the first day of school for hundreds of Durango School District 9-R students.
School started last week in Bayfield and on Monday in Ignacio.
Students flooded the Riverview courtyard about 7:45 a.m. Some were nervous to start the new year, while others happily linked up with friends to share their summer experiences. Some students brought gifts such as flowers for their teachers, and student resource officers greeted students while handing out stickers.
“It feels really good,” said Riverview Principal Lindsay Neiman about returning to school. “Especially today when the kids are in the building. The best part is that all that hard work pays off.”
Students lined up to enter classes for the first time while saying goodbye to their parents.
Adrian Wegeng-Frank said her son, Toby, was ecstatic about going into the first grade.
“Toby’s been talking about it for weeks – weeks upon weeks,” she said. “He’s like, ‘Is it time? How much longer, mom?’”
Wegeng-Frank said her son’s favorite subject is science because he enjoys the class taught by Charlie Love, who teaches science to K-4 students.
“He just loves learning about animals and the Earth,” she said.
At the kindergarten classes, father Peter Stockwell was dropping off his daughter, Lyla, for her first day.
He said she was nervous but felt she was prepared after her time spent at an early learning school.
Also in the courtyard were Evelyn, 9, and Otto Kneller, 7, who were sharing a last embrace with their brand-new puppy, Laika, before the start of the school day. Both were happy to be starting school.
Before the first day of kindergarten classes, Riverview teachers met with parents and students to share important information about the new school year.
“Kindergarten is a big deal,” Neiman said. “We love new families, we want you to be involved and we want to communicate with you.”
Kindergarten teacher Crystal Duvall spoke to parents and children about the importance of the school environment and the logistics for the school year. She said the students will make leaps and bounds of growth this year.
“This is the very best job in the world,” Duvall said. “We always say it every year, but our biggest job is to love the children and keep them safe.”
She added that the teachers wanted to create a sense of responsibility with students and advised parents to allow their children to carry their own backpack or even allow them to do minor chores around the house to continue to build that characteristic.
She also addressed COVID-19 protocols.
“We are so lucky we don’t have to wear masks this year and we can kind of go back to life as usual, but we are a mask-friendly school,” Duvall said.
She said if a child feels more comfortable wearing a mask, they can do so, and if children are feeling sick, they should stay home. Students who have tested positive for COVID-19 must isolate for five days and on the sixth day they should come back with a well-fitting mask they wear until the 11th day.
Students then entered their first day of kindergarten.
In Trish Kirkpatrick’s class, subtle piano music played in the background as students found their seats. On their desks was a small tub of Play-Doh and a coloring sheet that had “Welcome to Kindergarten” printed across it.
Some students immediately foraged through brand-new boxes of crayons and markers to find their favorite colors. Blue and green were among the favorites. Other students were more intrigued by the Play-Doh. One student molded the dough into the shape of a beehive within minutes of sitting down.
“Kids, especially in elementary school, can’t wait for school to start. It’s pretty cool,” Neiman said.
Neiman said her favorite part of the first day of school is seeing all of the students interact with each other and all of the smiles. From curriculum to the school’s staff members, she is excited for what the new school year has in store.
She’s especially thrilled about the school’s new Seeds of Inspiration Lab science project that involves an interactive science project in which students will learn about sustainability and self-sufficiency while working in a garden.
The school is also trying to promote culture among students, in part through service projects. Neiman said the projects are based on finding something in the community that needs solving.
“It can be anything from planting a garden, putting rocks in somebody’s yard to cheer up their day or shoveling snow,” she said. “So really, it’s driven by what the kids want to give back to the community.”
She said much of the curriculum is to prepare elementary school students for the district’s new Portrait of a Graduate plan. The curriculum is supposed to provide research-based learning opportunities with academic resources to encourage engagement with students.
“Our staff is fantastic. They have been working so hard and I’m just so impressed with just how passionate they are,” Neiman said. “They’ll do anything for these kids.”