With thoughts of warm summer days behind them, students filed into the halls of Nikiski North Star Elementary with filled backpacks and new shoes Tuesday morning — the first day of school for students in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District.
For returning students, a new voice was heard loud and clear over the intercom system. Margaret Gilman, former Kenai Middle School teacher, welcomed students and staff as their new principal.
After announcements, Gilman greeted parents of new students at the “boo hoo breakfast” held in the school’s library. While she had attended the milestone celebration as a parent, Gilman said this was her first time speaking as an administrator.
“(I) really love the concept of the boo hoo breakfast because part of school is welcoming people into our family. … Truly, parents have a hard time on their children’s first day of kindergarten or preschool,” she said.
Gilman said she noticed some parents lingering near classroom doors and emphasized the importance of parental comfort in the schools.
“The first time you send your oldest child to school, it is a monumental event in your life as a parent because you realize that other people now have a fair amount of impact in the way your child develops. And I just love involving the parents because — especially that group of parents— they do so much for their own kids but also to help all of the kids in the school,” she said.
Moms and dads, accompanied by babies and toddlers, sat and munched on fruit and doughnuts while Gilman explained to the crowd the some of the ins and outs of the school.
Another topic she discussed with the group was the benefits of the school’s new parking lot. She said she believed the new parking lot worked well for the first day of school.
“The specific intent of having the addition of the new parking lot was primarily student safety,” she said.
She said the expanded lot will not only improve the safety of the students and staff, but it will allow the school increased monitoring of who enters and exits the building.
“It allows us, as a school, to have one entrance into our building, the other doors will be locked,” she said.
The parking capacity for the school doubled with the lot expansion, creating a total of 88 spaces. The last task to complete the expansion is the painting of the parking lot lines, which is expected to occur this weekend, weather permitting.
With change often comes confusion. Gilman said to aid in the smooth execution of the new school entrance and traffic pattern of the school, on hand were six Nikiski fire fighters, several NNS staff members, Kenai Peninsula Borough Project Manager Robin Davis and two First Student employees.
Once parents either dropped of their little ones or walked them in, it was then time to settle in, meet teachers and form bonds that will last through the school year.
Down the primary wing, 16 busy hands were the first to use the new waxy crayons in Kim Trammel’s kindergarten class, as they colored in large flowers on white cardstock.
For the first week of school, the three kindergarten classes of approximately 20 students will be split into half days to help ease kids into school.
“It’s awesome, it really eases them into it,” Trammel said. “We get to know them and they get to know each other.”
Each child wore a nametag to help Trammell with name recognition.
“That is one thing that comes easy to me, remembering their names,” she said.
This year is Trammell’s fifth year teaching at NNS. She and her family came from Georgia.
While the students worked hard on their art creations, Trammell called each to deposit their supplies into totes at the front of the room. The children each have a different system for getting the supplies into the tote, some place them delicately while others toss erasers into the container, like a basketball.
The atmosphere, typically chaotic and loud mid-year, on the first day is quiet, with students working hard to impress their new teacher.
“Look at my flower, teacher,” said a student holding up her work.
“It is beautiful,” she said in her southern voice. “You guys are doing a great job.”
With the piles of papers that will soon be sent home, and the newly purchased items sure to find their way to the lost and found, Gilman said the events on Tuesday are sure to be recalled fondly later in life.
“To see the kids all shined up and spiffed up…. And their missing a tooth and they’re so excited,” she said. “Everybody remembers their first day of (school). You remember that excitement, you remember that nervousness, you remember your teacher.”
Reach Sara Hardan at firstname.lastname@example.org.