Amy Wells discreetly brushed away a tear after her youngest son hung up his book bag and walked into his kindergarten classroom Wednesday on the first day of school at Lincoln Elementary School.
Sawyer, 5, is her fourth and youngest child. With him in school, her days will be easier, quieter — and far more empty.
“With my other kids, I was able to drop them off at six weeks for day care,” she said. “With him, I’m with him constantly because I worked nights. He stayed with me all day.”
She was worried about what his reaction would be when she had to let go of his hand at the classroom door.
“He’s used to Mommy being with him,” she said.
But it was harder for her than him. He posed for pictures, then calmly marched into his classroom, walking around children who were frozen in place, staring longingly at their parents.
Wells laughed weakly.
“I’ve been looking forward to this day, really,” she said. “Watching him go to school and make friends. [I] wouldn’t change it for the world.”
But it wasn’t easy to watch suddenly independent children walk away.
Sarah Vanherp was struck by how grown up her son, Jace Torres, seemed when she said goodbye to him.
“I’m happy because he’s growing up and sad because he’s growing up. He’s not my baby anymore,” she said.
Veronica Jainath choked back her tears so her daughter wouldn’t see her cry.
“She is excited. I feel I’m going to cry,” Jainath said.
Her daughter Alaya, 4, was cheerfully spinning and dancing. Her mother sighed. After three kids, she said, she ought to be used to the first day of school.
“But it doesn’t get any easier,” she said. “She’s been with me for the past four years. If I go somewhere, she goes with me.”
Alaya has watched enviously as her older siblings headed off for school. She said she’s been looking forward to it finally being her turn.
“I get to go to school,” she said.
For other children, the first day was not as easy. One pre-K student at Lincoln had to be carried into the school by her father as she wailed, “I don’t want to go to school!”
Another little boy tried to talk his mother out of the whole school thing.
“Mommy, stay with me,” said Vladimir Kanciruk, 4.
His mother, Jess, has three children. Vladimir is the youngest. She tried to stay calm.
“I can’t go into the classroom,” she said. “Mr. D. takes you into the classroom. Remember all the cool toys?”
Vladimir hugged her leg.
“Stay with me,” he pleaded.
Teachers fanned out across the parking lot, organizing students into lines and reassuring parents that frightened children will love school — after a couple of weeks.
School officials also were relieved when only 11 unregistered kindergartners districtwide showed up on the first day of school.
In 2009, 200 unregistered kindergartners showed up in the first week of school, and officials had to scramble to create classrooms and hire teachers after school had already started. The baby boom has continued since then, and last year, school officials said they had to turn nearly every available space into kindergarten classrooms to house all the students.
To prepare for the influx this year, school officials repeatedly urged parents to register their children as early as possible. The effort seemed to have paid off; the district had enough slots to accommodate all 11 newcomers and still has space for a few more, if any students appear in the coming weeks.