Classrooms in Bellingham and beyond were filled with the cacophony of chatting students, unzipping backpacks and newly shoed feet as several districts in the county had their first day of school Tuesday, Sept. 4.
For kindergarteners at Harmony Elementary School, though, it was a quiet first day, as parents and their kids had individual meetings with their new teachers.
"It's a great opportunity to get to know the kids and the parents one on one," said kindergarten teacher Gretchen Baker. "It eases them in in a very gentle way."
This is the first year that Mount Baker School District has offered full-time kindergarten at all three of its elementary schools, one of which is Harmony. Kindergarten has been offered full time at Kendall Elementary for the past four years, but only three days a week at Acme and Harmony elementary schools.
"(At Kendall) we've seen the positive impact for students both in terms of their academic achievement and their student skills," said Mount Baker Superintendent Charlie Burleigh. "All that investment in kindergarten makes a big difference as they go through our system."
For parents, the change to districtwide full-time kindergarten was happy news. It meant their kids would be able to get into the routine of school and have more classroom time before first grade.
"He's ready for it, and I will like the consistency of five days a week," said Heather Zender, whose son Zack is starting kindergarten this year. "I think he'll have a jumpstart in learning the basics by going (to class) more often."
The kids were more excited about picking their first-day outfits, riding the bus and meeting new friends. Friends Gracelyn Zender and Makenzie Tucker were smiling and playing in the halls after their moms, Becky Zender and Rayanna Tucker, met with their teacher.
Teacher Anne Skelton said she loves seeing the excitement on the faces of the parents and kids once they get in the classroom.
"It's an emotional thing," she said. "The kids are happy. It's going to be a good year."
Ferndale and Lummi schools begin classes Wednesday, Sept. 5. They are the last of the Whatcom County school districts to begin fall classes.
Reach ZOE FRALEY at email@example.com or call 360-756-2803.