Bay Lake Elementary is Horizon West’s newest school.
Before Yadiel Santaella, 5, left for his first day of school, he was sure to grab his red and blue Avengers lunchbox, which matched his backpack and his shirt.
The first-grade student and Captain America fan grinned as he walked on to Bay Lake Elementary School’s campus with his sister, Arianna, 8, by his side. Like most children on the first day of school, Yadiel and Arianna were thinking about meeting their teachers and new friends.
Yet, like each student who walked through Bay Lake Elementary’s doors on Monday, Yadiel and Arianna were new to the school. In fact, each teacher at Bay Lake was new to the school, as well.
Bay Lake Elementary is one of three new schools to open in Orange County this year. The school helped to relieve overcrowding at other elementary schools in the Horizon West area.
Despite everything feeling so new, the word of the day from the students was “excited.”
“I’m excited to see my friends,” said Ryder Bax, a fifth-grade student who previously attended Sunset Park Elementary School. Many of his friends from Sunset Park now attend Bay Lake Elementary.
Bay Lake is led by Principal Myrlene Kimble, who said the day was one of the easiest first days she’s ever had.
“It’s been phenomenal ... it’s probably been my smoothest opening day yet,” Kimble said. “The parents (are) just so overwhelmingly supportive and positive throughout this whole experience. ... (The kids) came in and they were ready to go.”
The transition went well despite some nerves it caused, particularly from fifth-graders who spent most of their time in elementary school at Sunset Park Elementary.
“I feel nervous, and it’s kind of weird since I left off there, and I thought I would be there for fifth grade,” said Taleechca Delva, a fifth-grader who transferred from Sunset Park.
During its first day of classes, Bay Lake also had some visitors — Barbara Jenkins, superintendent of Orange County Public Schools, and Pam Gould, District 4 School Board member.
“The classrooms are bright and cheerful, and the team here is so excited,” Gould said. “On all the doors, there’s these great welcome messages. It’s thrilling to have the school open.”
Around Orange County, the first day of school went smoothly overall.
“The first day is going fantastic,” Jenkins said. “I love the first day of school; it’s so exciting for the adults as well as for the children. We’ve had no major issues. Nine-hundred-and-two buses out rolling on the streets; of that, we’ve only had maybe 20 that were running slightly behind. Any time they’re running behind, it’s usually because of congestion in the area because parents want to drive on the first day.”
BAY LAKE BY THE NUMBERS
15 The campus’ total acreage
94,279 The school’s total square footage
785 Bay Lake’s current enrollment
837 Bay Lake’s student capacity
CROSSING GUARDS NEEDED
Orange County currently has a 40% shortage on crossing guards, according to Orange County School Board member Pam Gould. The position is often difficult to fill because it is a part-time job that requires a person to work at two different times each day.
The district is filling the gap by having the Orange County Sheriff’s Office deputies and police officers man the crosswalks. Even Commissioner S. Scott Boyd helped cross students during the first day of school.
Crossing guards work for about two hours a day, before and after school, for a total of about 10 hours per week. To apply, visit ocps.net.