Summer break for La Cañada Unified students officially ended Thursday as 4,124 local children grabbed their backpacks and school supplies and poured onto campuses ready to start the 2019-20 school year on the right foot.
Palm Crest Elementary School first-grader Jian Lee tentatively made her way toward Rachel Harter’s class, holding her mom’s hand for backup.
“I think I’m more nervous than she is,” Won Lee said of her daughter.
In the Palm Crest car line new Principal Cory Pak greeted families as they dropped off their young charges. His goal is to meet every student on campus and make sure kids coming to his campus from other schools aren’t left in the lurch.
“They’ll be assigned to buddies from each class, so they’ll have an instant friendship,” he said. “We have a lot of new students, and I’m in the same boat. But this community is incredibly welcoming.”
LCUSD officials adopted a divide-and-conquer approach in their annual first-day visits, as Supt. Wendy Sinnette started her day at Palm Crest Elementary while school board members began theirs at other campuses.
“It’s exciting,” Sinnette said of the new school year. “It was a busy summer, but we’re back in full force and fully staffed — there’s a really good vibe throughout the district.”
Evident to most returning families were signs of renovation and construction projects started over summer break and in various stages of completion Thursday. La Cañada Elementary School students waited for new asphalt in the play area to cure and accommodated the installation of perimeter fencing, while students at Paradise Canyon enjoyed new lunch shelters for the first time.
At La Cañada High School, a renovated band room awaited new acoustic wall panels, while new parking lot surfaces still needed to be striped, according to Sinnette. At Palm Crest, a sewer line installation was nearly complete, taking the campus off a decades-old septic system.
Nearby, crossing guard Evelyn Harris put up brand new pinwheels at her corner post to indicate the start of another year and greeted kids as they crossed Palm Drive and Fairmount Avenue.
“As long as everybody gets in safely and there are no accidents, it’s a good first day,” Harris said.
Among the many pedestrians was fourth-grader Juliet Brown, who walked with mom Lisa and carried a small potted orchid for her teacher. Despite being a newcomer from an area private school, the 9-year-old wasn’t nervous in the least.
“I’m excited,” she said.
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