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First school day yields smooth start

“I don’t know who’s more nervous — the kids or the parents,” said El Morro Elementary School Principal Chris Duddy as he surveyed parents perched on tiny chairs in Lisa Williams’s kindergarten class on Wednesday.

The parents had arrived with their kids for kindergarten orientation on the first day of school, but the former were the ones being orientated.

Their offspring — bedecked in pink dresses, button-down shirts and even a cowboy hat — gallivanted on playground equipment outside, oblivious to the frowns of concentration in their new classrooms.

The majority of the parents who attended the orientation were mothers, although there was a large contingent of camera-toting fathers.

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Williams emphasized the importance of routines to the parents as she showed them sample homework packets and folders.

Her fellow teachers detailed their need for Clorox wipes and glue sticks, as well as spare clothes to keep in the room in case of craft-related accidents.

Later, the kids were given the opportunity to explore a school bus, while their parents stood by and waved.

Duddy said he was impressed nearly all the kids’ parents made an effort to come to the orientation.

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All Laguna Beach Unified schools reported a remarkably incident-free first day.

District Facilities and Grounds Director Eric Jetta visited all four campuses Wednesday morning and said all were shipshape.

“I think it was one of the smoothest openings we’ve ever had,” said Thurston Middle School Principal Joanne Culverhouse.

She encouraged parents to check the school’s website frequently, as it contains a multitude of information as well as her regular podcasts.

Incoming Thurston students are excited about the new Transition Wheel, formerly the Organizational Wheel. They will spend several weeks learning art electives, then computer skills, school success skills and their social and emotional strengths.

The administrators are also focusing on fire safety and teaching how to understand and avoid harassment; they will visit each classroom on Monday and discuss harassment with each class.

Fire safety is also a top priority at Top of the World Elementary, where Principal Ron La Motte reported an increase of about 15 students over last year.

The increase didn’t affect the first day of school, though.

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“It was a very smooth, positive start to the school year,” he said.

La Motte also said this year’s theme is “Top of the World: Perfecting the Art and Science of Teaching.”

Laguna Beach High School Principal Don Austin said the hot topics on campus were the new silkscreening class and the new dance teachers, including new ballet teacher Shanti Harter, a performer with Gallimaufry & Greene.

Harter graduated with high honors from UCI with a BFA in performance and choreography, and is a principal dancer with several other companies.

She has taught dance at area schools.


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