Students and their parents flooded through the doors of Castleview Elementary School on Monday, Aug. 12, surrounded by blue and white balloons celebrating the much-anticipated first day of school.
After sneak peeks, meet-your-teacher events and other preparatory activities, parents and students grinned and giggled while taking photos at the front of the school and again inside at the selfie station assembled by school staff. Shier students hugged their siblings, while others grabbed fun props and posed for their families.
Principal Dr. Julie Helton, donning a reflective vest, stood at the school’s crosswalk welcoming students and their parents, helping them get to where they needed to go. Between the greetings, she said what she’s looking forward to most is actually having students in the building.
“It’s amazing,” Helton said. “That’s the best thing.”
Because it was the first day of class, parents had permission to walk their students to their classrooms, lugging snacks, tissues and school supplies, ready to set up their students for their first lesson.
Older students trickled in, confidently making it to their assigned rooms, as well. Erin Puleo dropped off her new fourth-grader, Lyla, at school, quickly snapping a photo of her daughter before she had to leave.
By now, Lyla basically is a pro at handling first days; this is her third elementary school in five years in Orange County Public Schools.
Puleo said Lyla started at Sunset Park Elementary School, which was overcrowded at the time. The next year, Bay Lake Elementary School opened to relieve Sunset Park, and Lyla was rezoned for that school.
Despite living in the same house in Newbury Park their whole lives, Lyla and her brother, who is starting sixth grade at Horizon West Middle, both attend new schools this year.
“We don’t all stay in the same job when we’re adults for six years or seven years at a time, so you know, it kind of gives them an idea of OK, we move, we adapt, we overcome and what have you,” Puleo said.
Thankfully, she said, both Lyla and her brother are excited for the school year at their respective schools. They have a group of friends around their same age in Newbury Park who have switched schools along with them. This year, to avoid the Newbury Park and Reams Road traffic, students in the neighborhood most likely will bike and walk the short path to school together, with a parent accompanying them.
Despite the frequent changes, Puleo had only positive feedback about every school staff member, administrator and teacher she has met so far. She praised the school’s focus on keeping a secure facility and the diversity in teachers.
“I could sit and gripe about this being the third elementary school my daughter is going to, but at the same time, you know, all three schools have been fantastic,” Puleo said.
“It’s been a positive experience,” she said. “I know everybody is kind of doing their best to get (three) new schools underway.”