NORTH GLENDALE — A crush of students flooded Glenwood Road on Thursday for the first day of school, rolling backpacks down crowded sidewalks and clinging to parents as they rushed to get to classes before morning bells sounded.
Keppel Elementary, Toll Middle and Hoover High schools are all located on the same two-block stretch of Glenwood, which was quiet before Thursday, with the start of school postponed three days due to dangerous wildfires and smoke in the region.
But with neighborhood evacuations cleared Wednesday and smoke dissipating in the area, officials opened campuses Thursday, bringing a flurry of activity to Glenwood.
Streams of students flowed passed crossing guards and into chatter-filled hallways as parents watched, waved and left in their own mass movement, returning to cars parked in the surrounding neighborhood.
Within a 15-minute span, 4,000 students had reached their desks in the three schools, bringing quiet back to the street.
“Whether it’s three days late or not this is still a typical first day of school,” said Kathy Fundukian Thorossian, assistant superintendent of educational services for the Glendale Unified School District.
Concerns about health hazards were apparently lessened and a new median along Glenwood had increased traffic safety for the start of the school year, easing any related stress for parents and teachers, Thorossian said.
Regardless, the rush of the first day of school persisted.
Nah San was rushing to the Keppel campus with her 7-year-old son at 8:06 a.m., a minute after classes were set to start.
“We couldn’t actually find parking, that’s the problem,” she said, near-breathless as she held third-grader Arya San’s hand and led him between outdoor bungalows at the campus.
Other parents weredarting between buildings and looking for room numbers, with their children in tow.
They weren’t alone. Students across the street at Hoover were more lost than ever, with new building numbers and recently completed construction confusing even the most experienced seniors at the school.
Principal Kevin Welsh stood in a breezeway, directing teenagers like an air traffic controller.
“Go straight, past the vending machines and on the left,” he told a freshman. “This building, third floor, facing Glenwood,” he said to another student.
The campus’ new organization was even causing problems for the tenured administrator.
“It’s a mess,” said sophomore Romik Keshishian, who had stopped to ask Welsh for directions. “No one knows anything about their classes. They’re all lost.”
“This school’s very big,” said Hoover freshman Eddiesha White, who was having trouble locating her second period class. “It’s very different from Toll.”
Students at Toll sat quietly in their classrooms as teachers laid out the ground rules for the year.
Boys with tired eyes and girls with straightened hair listened and reacted shyly to teacher directions.
More than an hour after classes began in the three schools, a new group of parents began gathering in front of Keppel with their kindergarten students.
Students wore backpacks covered with cartoon and TV characters while parents pulled out digital and video cameras to capture the moment.
“It’s a memorable thing, you know, kids entering school,” said Asma Faruqi, who was dropping off her 5-year-old daughter, Misha Faruqi. “It’s just one more chapter in your life. It’s going to go on for a long time now.”
Some of the students broke out into tears as they lined up behind teacher Suzanne Buckhoff and followed her into the school, crying to stay with their parents.
They weren’t the only ones having emotional experiences, parents said.
“He’s growing up,” mother Hasmik Simon said. “We can’t protect him they way we did before.”