Megan Eliason knelt down next to her daughter, Hartley, in front of the “Welcome Back Wildcat Leaders” sign and put on a big smile.
Although Eliason was nervous to say goodbye to her kindergartner on her first day of school at Gilbert W. McNeal Elementary School, she was excited to see what the school year would bring.
“She’s ready,” Eliason said about Hartley. “I heard great things about her teacher. It’s emotional today … but good emotions.”
Parents across the greater Lakewood Ranch area wished their students a great first day of school Aug. 10 with some goodbyes a little more tearful than others.
Christine and Michael Castellon watched as their son, Mateo, rode his bike to the entrance of McNeal Elementary for his first day of pre-K.
“It’s scary and so sad,” Christine Castellon said. “I’m just hoping he has a wonderful first day.”
At Braden River Elementary School, Chloe Smotryski watched as her kindergartner, Liam Falanga, lined up a row of crayons on his desk.
"He was nervous, but I think he will do well," Smotryski said.
The first day of school at Braden River Elementary brought back memories for Laura Swinson, who was sending her son, Lucas, off for his first day of kindergarten. Swinson attended the elementary school when she was a child.
"It's very nostalgic," Swinson said.
McNeal Elementary fifth grader Evangeline Selai and her brother, Blake, who is in fourth grade, were nervous because they’re new to the school after the family moved from Ohio.
Jessica Selai, Evangeline and Blake’s mother, said the family looked forward to being integrated into the school after learning the school received an A rating from the Florida Department of Education and hearing positive thoughts on the school community.
Evangeline Selai was more excited about the 3D printers available for students to use in McNeal’s STEM lab.
Ava Baker, a second grader at McNeal Elementary, couldn’t wait to be back in gym class so she could play dodgeball, her favorite activity in gym class.
For many students, like McNeal Elementary fourth grader Jackson Nichols, the first day of school meant being able to see their friends again and making new friends.
Some parents at Braden River Elementary School are looking forward to their students being a part of the school's dual-language program, which teaches a group of kindergartners and first graders in English and Spanish. Kindergartners who started in the dual-language program last year are continuing in the program as first graders this year while a new group of kindergartners start in the program.
Keya Sutherland said the dual-language program would be a fun experience for her first grader, Alex.