Joseph Crane held tight to his mother’s hand Thursday morning.
The first day of kindergarten was difficult for both him and mom Rachelle.
“I’m probably about to cry,” she said, as dropped off her son for his first day at the new Kelly Mill Elementary School. “He’s a little afraid … it’s his first time. He doesn’t know anybody, so I gave him a picture of mom and dad to hold all day long so he can see us.”
Kindergartener Mackenzie Wrba may have an easier transition, since big sister Madison can show her the ropes.
“It’s great that she has a big sister to help her get into the feel of a new school year and new experience, and if she’s nervous, that she has a big sister to help her,” said their mother, Kim Wrba.
But Madison Wrba said she wasn’t exactly thrilled about the new role. She was, however, excited about the new school. “I just want to experience something new.”
Thursday was the first day of the 2012-13 school year in the Forsyth County school system, where enrollment has topped 38,400 students.
Superintendent Buster Evans said this year’s registration exceeded the system’s expectations by about 125 students. That put enrollment ahead of projections for December.
“The numbers are up and we think that’s good,” Evans said. “Our numbers are up and we’re trying to make sure we adjust to it.”
Evans noted how many schools offered unique experiences for students and their parents Thursday.
Chestatee Elementary held a Boo Hoo Breakfast for parents of kindergarteners, while Silver City Elementary rolled out a red carpet for students.
“We applaud our leaders across the district for doing things that really make coming back to school special,” Evans said. “It’s a new chapter in their lives. There’s going to be new friends, new teachers, new relationships … for many kids it means getting back into clubs and activities.
“Kids look forward to that and it really creates a bit of excitement.”
For Kelly Mill, the county’s first new school since Lambert High opened in 2009, Thursday was a long time coming. Principal Ron McAllister said he was as nervous as the kids.
“There are lots of happy people here today,” he said. “We’ve worked hard, we’ve worked long hours to make this the best place we can for kids and today starts that process with actually having kids in the building.
“It’s all real now.”
McAllister said the first day got off to a great start, with buses arriving on time and staff members lining the parking lot and hallways to help parents and students.
In total, more than 22,000 of the district’s students rode a bus to school.
There were some delays but transportation director, Garry Puetz, said “they were mostly due to the extra care being taken at the elementary schools to correctly identify their students and ensure they were properly assigned for their afternoon ride home.”
Puetz said both morning and afternoon routes will be delayed today as well, but will “continue to improve as students, schools and drivers become more consistent with their transportation routine.”
For parents who drove their children to school, staff members were on hand to direct traffic.
Neil Flint arrived early at Kelly Mill to welcome parents and students, despite being dressed like he was still on summer vacation.
Clad in swim trunks, scuba gear and a towel hanging around his neck, Flint, the school’s science lab facilitator, said he’s been known to dress up for the children.
“Sometimes with waiting in line and nerves and anxiety, it helps reduce that. Seeing a grown man dressed up funny, they laugh and it makes coming to school more interesting,” he said. “There are all sorts of exciting things that are going to happen here for kids this year. The sky’s the limit.”