Hundreds of children swirled through the halls of Wiley Canyon Elementary School on Tuesday morning, running, talking and comparing new gear ranging from Jurassic Park backpacks to Snoopy lunch boxes.
PTA volunteers acted as on-campus traffic cops, giving directions to students and parents alike while teachers placed their names on the chalkboard and welcomed newcomers to their classrooms.
And while the scene is familiar to communities everywhere during the fall, it seemed out of place on a warm summer July morning in Newhall.
"It's weird," admitted Valencia Valley School Principal Wayne Abruzzo. "In a way, it's kind of like having a baby or getting married. It's a big event--you keep thinking it's never going to get here and suddenly here it is."
Nearly 1,500 children attending Wiley Canyon and Valencia Valley elementary schools are now on a staggered schedule designed to relieve overcrowding. The two campuses are the first in the Newhall School District to abandon a traditional calendar.
Multitrack has spread out Valencia Valley's current enrollment of 955 so only 724 students are on campus at any time of year, with a similar reduction for Wiley Canyon.
Proponents say the schedule relieves crowding of library, cafeteria and other facilities while increasing student retention because there is no long vacation break.
In some cases, parents seemed more affected by the modified schedules than their children.
"It was one of my personal nightmares to go to school in the summer," said Wayne Schubert, peering at his 6-year-old son Ryan through the chain-link fence outside Wiley Canyon School. "He's excited. He already had it figured out who his teacher is and what his track is."
For returning students, their first day back followed an abbreviated summer vacation of only two weeks. They will attend school for 60 days, then get 20 days off in a repeating schedule.
'It's different. There isn't the anticipation because school just ended," said Robin Scantland, whose daughter, Lisa, entered the second grade Tuesday at Wiley Canyon.
Fourth-grader Sean Feldman, 9, and third-grader Jaime Feldman, 7, have always attended multitrack schools, making their summertime first day of school business as usual.
"Don't make long-range plans," Ron Feldman suggests to other parents, saying the non-traditional vacation times made planning difficult.