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Lines, questions, high energy mark first day of school at Glendale Unified

Tears, hugs and a little bit of chaos accompanied the first day of school in Glendale Unified Wednesday morning.

The district’s 21 elementary, five middle and six high schools and independent-study programs opened their doors to an estimated 26,000 students.

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Wednesday truly was a first day for Cerritos Elementary School, which is transitioning to Cerritos Elementary Computer Science Magnet School.

Principal Perla Chavez-Fritz welcomed parents, students, guardians, teachers and staff in front of the school at 7:30 a.m. as they entered for an 8 a.m. start.

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“We participated in coding last year, but this is our first official year as a magnet, so it’s very exciting,” Chavez-Fritz said. “Our focus is now geared toward technology and the [science] immersion program.”

Wednesday was the beginning of Chavez-Fritz’s fifth year at the helm of Cerritos, which gave her a decided advantage in planning for the first day.

Even so, the veteran still received many questions, ranging from parents looking for classrooms to asking about the lunch program to two parents already inquiring if their children can switch classrooms.

“Sometimes the change requests are for no reason, too,” Chavez-Fritz said. “One parent wanted their child in a split grade, which is the first time I’ve ever heard that. So, every request is different and unique, and I just have to give everyone a chance to get settled and kind of feel how the week is going to go before we ask for changes.”

Glendale parent Luisa Tejada and her daughter, Talia Argueta, 5, were at the front of a long line set up for teacher Carla Reiber’s kindergarten class.

Tejada was no stranger to first days or kindergarten because Talia is the youngest of three children.

Even so, there were still some feelings of anxiety.

“It’s nerve-racking and exciting at the same time,” Tejada said. “It was extremely tough to get here. I have a middle-schooler and then two that come here, so it’s a headache, but I’m also so proud of all my kids and am so excited.”

Special-education assistant Wendy Wax, who has 20 years of teaching experience, said she was grateful the students in Reiber’s line were well-behaved.

“This is great because [kindergarten kids] are wonderful,” Wax said. “They don’t cause any problems.”

Across the district, the first day of school was also the beginning for new eras in leadership.

Vickie Atikian took over as principal of Fremont Elementary School, Barbara Fariss at Lincoln Elementary School, Lisa Kaprielian at R.D. White Elementary, Narek Kassabian at Wilson Middle School and Lonny Root at Daily High/Verdugo Academy/Jewel City.

“Our opening day went very well,” Root said. “Our teachers and staff are very experienced and organized, and we opened school without a problem.”

Root added, “We have everything ready to go the day before and each person has their area of responsibility. Admin greets students and parents in front of school, teachers help students find classrooms and office staff helps parents and answer questions.”

At Jefferson, La Crescenta and Verdugo Hills elementary schools, officials welcomed not only students but new facilities and buildings thanks to Measure S bond funds.

Jefferson, La Crescenta and Verdugo Woodlands replaced older bungalows with new classrooms using bond money and funds from a State Overcrowding Relief Grant.

Verdugo Woodlands and La Crescenta students will also get a chance to break in new playgrounds, made available by Measure S funds.

One person returning to a familiar setting was Atikian, who is back at Fremont for the first time since she was a teacher specialist during the 2000-01 school year.

“The first day of school was amazing.” Atikian said. “I’m so excited to be back as the principal. Everything went smoothly.”

“The first day was amazing,” Fariss said. “The buzz in the air from students, staff and parents was electric. You can feel the energy zinging.”

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