Although Estes Elementary employs a fleet of seven school buses, they become a primarily walk-in school for one day out of the year: The first day of school.
Parents gather to walk their children through the school gates. Some parents carry their kids, some hold their hands and some already let their kids walk ahead on their own.
This is the Class of 2031.
“When you look at the quantitative number of the school year, yes, it is surprising,” said Estes Elementary principal Colleen Frederick, “But this is my 32nd year in education, it stopped being surprising for me after about the year 2000.”
In preparing for a new generation of school kids, Estes Elementary looked at technology above all else. The new class of 130 students will learn on Chromebooks.
“Change is inevitable,” Frederick said. “This is our second year with Chromebooks, and I feel like our teachers are now getting more creative with them. Whereas last year they were just trying to figure everything out. The jobs that are going to be in the field in 2031 haven’t even been invented yet. That’s why this new technology is so important, so they never stop learning.”
When the new students marched onto campus with fresh shoes and shining backpacks, they gave high-fives to their friends and already began choosing the best trees to hang out by during recess. Some of the kindergartners wore brand new backpacks bigger than themselves.
“I got new shoes!” One first-grader shouted to his classmates.
Over the loudspeaker, school staff announced, “Attention parents, our tardy bell will be ringing soon, so it is almost time to say ‘goodbye.’”
A teary-eyed girl with a bow in her freshly braided hair clung to her parents while wearing a colorful shirt that read “Happy”.
But if it was the parents doing the crying, the school organized a special “Boo-Hoo Breakfast” in the library after the students began school. Above dishes of strawberries and cinnamon rolls, the parents were introduced to the Parent/Teacher Organization, talked about the upcoming year with school staff and shared what it was like letting their kids go.
“It felt weird, nerve-wracking in some ways,” said Jessica Callaway, whose 5-year-old recently walked off to first day of school. “But he was fine. He was like ‘Okay, bye, see you later.’ Whereas I wanted to go in the bathroom and cry. But I’m glad he’s doing well.”
Parents of kindergartners had the opportunity to accompany their kids to the cafeteria for a classic school breakfast: Cartons of milk, apple juice and granola bars.
Some of the kindergartners were shy. Some were crying. But most were excited.
Another loudspeaker announcement also said that, although on the first week parents can have breakfast with their kids, “Next week, we will have to kindly escort parents away from their students.”
As the parents began leaving the cafeteria, one parent said to his kid, “I have your milk right here,” and the kid responded, “It’s okay Dad, I already got some by myself.”