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First day of kindergarten can be emotional time for parents

Parents often have a hard time deciding whether to cry or celebrate as they drop off their kindergartner on the first day of school.

Averleigh Cross can't wait to start kindergarten at Freedom Elementary School. She's looking forward to learning how to read better.
Averleigh Cross can't wait to start kindergarten at Freedom Elementary School. She's looking forward to learning how to read better.
Photo by Liz Ramos
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Vanessa Marcell watched as her daughter Olivia Davey ran to the playground at B.D. Gullett Elementary School.

They were surrounded by other families with kindergartners, giving them the opportunity to meet Davey’s new classmates and their families during a kindergarten popsicle party July 25. 

But Marcell couldn’t help thinking about how her daughter just graduated from pre-K in May. How could this all be happening so quickly?

Olivia Davey, a kindergartner at B.D. Gullett Elementary School, plays on the playground during the school's kindergarten popsicle party.
Photo by Liz Ramos

“She was so proud when she graduated (pre-K),” Marcell said while holding back tears as she remembered her daughter dressed in a cap and gown.

And, of course, she remembered the smile on her daughter's face.

“If there were awards given for the parents, I would have received one for definitely crying the most,” Marcell said.

She can’t believe her little girl is already starting kindergarten, leaving her with mixed emotions. She is excited to see the academic and social growth of her daughter, but she also is anxious about sending her off for a full day of school. 

“I’ve heard so many great things about Gullett,” Marcell said. “I’m looking forward to seeing her blossom and hopefully make some more friends. Academics are important, but at this stage, I want the social-emotional development to be a key focus. I just want to see how others can help her grow.”

The first day of school can be an emotional day for parents and students, but most tears come from the families of kindergartners. 

While some parents have to console their child and encourage them to walk into the classroom, others are holding back tears as their little one runs off to start their new adventure. 

Those emotions can escalate when it's the parents' first child to enter kindergarten. A mixture of excitement and nervousness fills them as they prepare to leave their baby at school for a full day. 

Kindergarten is often a year of tremendous growth for the students, which many parents said they can’t wait to see in their own child. 

“I’m excited for her to have those amazing experiences I know she’s going to have and to be able to become who she’s meant to be,” said Kathleen Brown, who is sending her daughter Emma to kindergarten at Braden River Elementary. “I’m excited for her to discover the things that she loves and hopefully to make lifelong friends.”

“Next thing you know, I’ll be teaching her how to drive,” said Chris Brown, Kathleen’s husband, with a laugh. 

Kiley Cannon is comforted to know her son Beau’s kindergarten teacher at Gene Witt Elementary, Allison Wykes. He met her when Beau was in pre-K so she’s a familiar face.

“He is thrilled to get to learn more with her,” Cannon. “It absolutely makes my life a whole lot easier because I can absolutely trust who he’s with during the day, and I know that she has his best interest at heart.”

Mihaela Mogorean is looking forward to the social aspects that come with kindergarten.

Daniel Vizdoaga, Stas Vizdoaga and Mihaela Mogorean prepare to send Gabriel Vizdoaga to kindergarten at B.D. Gullett Elementary School.
Photo by Liz Ramos

Mogorean and her family moved from Moldova five years ago when she was pregnant with her son Gabriel Vizdoaga, who will be a kindergartner at Gullett Elementary School. She is nervous to see how her family will adjust to their first child going to kindergarten. 

Although she’s looking forward to seeing her son learn how to read and write, she’s worried about the challenges a language barrier could pose as her family speaks another language, Romanian, at home.

Just like the parents, kindergartners have mixed feelings about going to school as well.

Emma Brown said she’s a bit nervous about meeting new kids and her teacher, but she can’t wait to see what crafts she’ll make in class. 

Averleigh Cross, a kindergartner at Freedom Elementary School, can’t wait to start reading more. She said she already knows she’ll have to practice to become a better reader. 

Cross’ mother, Brianna Cross, said knowing her daughter is thrilled about starting kindergarten makes it easier for her to let her go, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be tears on the first day. 

“I was nervous when she was going to pre-K, but this is a whole different story,” Brianna Cross said. “I know she’s ready for it, and that makes it a lot easier for me.”

For Kim Sharpe, the first day comes with double the emotion as her twins, Zachary and Colton Sharpe, start kindergarten at Gene Witt Elementary. 

“My two babies are going off to school,” Sharpe said. “I can’t keep them in my little bubble anymore.”

Sharpe is happy her sons will be in separate classes so they have the opportunity to become their own person. 

As she watched her sons play in a sandbox with fellow kindergartner Anthony Tacoma, she said her sons are excited about two aspects of school: crafts and the playground.

“They think it’s all about play,” Sharpe said with a laugh.

Gene Witt Elementary School kindergartners Colton Sharpe, Zachary Sharpe and Anthony Tacoma play together during the school's kindergarten playdate.
Photo by Liz Ramos

School choice was a factor for some parents that helped alleviate anxiety about their child starting kindergarten.

For Kathleen and Chris Brown, it was comforting to be able to send Emma Brown to Braden River Elementary School through school choice because it’s next door to Braden River Middle School where Chris is a coding, robotics and pre-AP World History and geography teacher and Kathleen is a math teacher. 

Being in close proximity, the Browns know they will more easily be able to be involved in school activities. 

They were also thrilled to have Emma enrolled at Braden River Elementary because the school offers the dual language program in which kindergartners spend half their time learning in Spanish and the other half in English. 

“At one point, Emma had turned to me because she’s fascinated by different languages and was like, ‘Mommy, teach me Spanish,’” Kathleen Brown said. “She’s excited to actually learn a different language.”

Samantha Koonce knew of Freedom Elementary School’s reputation for being a good school, so she chose to send her son Mason there through the school choice program. She feels like she’s passing the torch from taking care of her son every day to entrusting the school “family” to help him grow and learn while he’s not in her care.

“He’s super excited. I’m slightly terrified,” Koonce said. “I was happy to watch him grow and progress over the last year throughout preschool. Now it’s not daycare anymore. It’s actually school. It’s pretty exciting but slightly terrifying.”



Liz Ramos

Liz Ramos covers education and community for East County. Before moving to Florida, Liz was an education reporter for the Lynchburg News & Advance in Virginia for two years after graduating from the Missouri School of Journalism.

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