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Have fun, learn a lot and don’t eat the paste

Parents drop kindergartners off on school’s first day

Grand Rapids, Rockford — At 8:05 a.m. on Tuesday morning, Sibley Elementary teachers are ready to welcome students and kick off the school year with the most important meal of the day. 

Principal Roselyn Charles-Maher plants herself at the door and greets every student individually as they enter the building. 

“Good morning! I’m so happy you’re here,” she tells them all, setting a bright tone for the new school year.  

This week marks the first day of school for most districts across Kent County, including Grand Rapids Public Schools and Rockford Public Schools. For students and parents alike, it was a day of excitement and new possibilities – and perhaps a little heartache for parents dropping their kids off to school for the first time.

Buddies for Breakfast  

For their first day of school at Sibley, kindergartners are allowed to have their parents or guardians accompany them into the cafeteria for breakfast.

 ‘I hope he can be happy this school year and spread that happiness to others.’

– Lesvia Marroquin, grandmother of Sibley Elementary student Jayden Garcia-Marroquinin

Parent Action Leader, mother and grandmother of Sibley students Lesvia Marroquin has a smile on her face all morning, as she sits with her grandkids and helps students find their teacher assignments. 

“I’m very excited for my grandkids starting school today,” she says.

Marroquin was able to check on her grandson, Jayden Garcia-Marroquinin, in Ruth Wezeman’s kindergarten class.

“He was very shy but I hope he does very well,” she says. “I hope he can be happy this school year and spread that happiness to others.” 

One by one, as parents leave their kids to learn in the two kindergarten classrooms, Charles-Maher waves goodbye and reminds them, “We’re going to have a great day. Trust us; we got this from here.” 

Photos for Memories  

By Allison Poosawtsee
Parkside Elementary Photos by Dianne Carroll Burdick

On a dewey morning outside Parkside Elementary in Rockford, families are  taking pictures of their back-to-schoolers in front of the school’s street sign. 

By 8:30 a.m. the line morphs into a small crowd with students and parents bouncing and buzzing with excitement.

‘I’m a little sad, but excited for her. I just want her to get a good education and be set up for success.’

– Emily Gleason, mother of Parkside Elementary kindergartner Kensington Gleason

Kindergartner Iris Augustine smiles big for her parents as they snap her picture. When asked if she’s looking forward to the first day of school, she buries her face in her mom’s leggings and nods her head. 

“Is it a little bit of both (excitement and nervousness), Iris?” her mother, Erin Augustine, asks. 

Iris nods her head again and smiles, while her father, Robbie Augustine, sheds light on the reason for her excitement. 

“This is such a great place,” he says. “Mrs. (Stacey) Heiss, her teacher, sent her a card with a bedtime poem and sprinkles (confetti) to put under her pillow the night before school starts.” 

He added: “It was just really beautiful and showed that (her teacher) has the right heart for her kids.” 

Truly the First Day 

Kensington Gleason is ready for her first day of kindergarten with Pinterest-perfect, spiral-braided hair and a brand new backpack. She’s the first of her siblings to go to school. Her mom, Emily Gleason, has mixed emotions about the day. 

“I’m a little sad, but excited for her,” Gleason says. “I just want her to get a good education and be set up for success.” 

Parkside Elementary students stand outside to say the Pledge of Allegiance on the first day of school

She’s confident that Parkside Elementary School is a great choice for her daughter. 

Parkside Principal Larry Watters says he’s certain that his students will thrive this year, especially as they enter the post-COVID era. 

“We have the best school in the district,” he says – adding that every principal should feel the same way about their schools. 

As the doors open, Erin Augustine hugs Iris one last time. Her hope for Iris is “that she will just have fun and love kindergarten.” 

Iris’ dad, Robbie, concurs, adding that he hopes “she doesn’t eat paste – and that she just has fun.”

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Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark is a reporter covering Byron Center, Caledonia, Godfrey-Lee, Kenowa Hills and Thornapple Kellogg. She grew up in metro Detroit and her journalism journey brought her west to Grand Rapids via Michigan State University where she covered features and campus news for The State News. She also co-authored three 100-question guides to increase understanding and awareness of various human identities, through the MSU School of Journalism. Following graduation, she worked as a beat reporter for The Ann Arbor News, covering stories on education, community, prison arts and poetry, before finding her calling in education reporting and landing at SNN. Alexis is also the author of a poetry chapbook, “Learning to Sleep in the Middle of the Bed.”


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