Water Spring Elementary was among three new Horizon West-area schools to open its doors for the first day of school.
Walking up to the doors of Water Spring Elementary, the buzz of excitement filling the air was almost electric.
Some students and parents gathered outside the front entrance more than 30 minutes before staff opened the doors to welcome hundreds of new Otters for the first time. Everyone was excited for the first day of school on Monday, Aug. 12, and it showed.
And like clockwork, as soon as the doors opened at 8:20 a.m., the hallways of the brand-new school were filled with a sea of backpacks.
Principal Amy Klaber, a familiar face for many Otters now, stood in the main hallway greeting parents and students. She took photos with students at parents’ request, offering directions to classroom — and even some hugs when they were needed.
“I have to say the most exciting part about the building opening this morning was watching those front doors opening and seeing the smiling faces of our community members walking into the building,” Klaber said. “You could feel the energy come into the room, you could feel that good feeling and the excitement, and there’s nothing better. You couldn’t imagine what that felt like.”
Water Spring is one of three new Horizon West-area schools opening this fall to accommodate the fast-growing area. It is located in Village H’s Storey Grove community off of Avalon Road.
As the relief school for Keene’s Crossing and Independence elementary schools, it has a program capacity of 837. According to Orange County Public Schools documents, the projected fall 2019 enrollment was 929.
Valerie LaKemper, records secretary for Water Spring’s PTO, helped set up the Boohoo/Yahoo Breakfast for the kindergarten parents while simultaneously getting her own kindergartner, Levi, ready to go to class.
“This is our first impression of any school, but we’ve been very impressed,” she said. “Everything that they’ve done for the kids and the parents — making sure everyone feels really comfortable on the first day — has been really comforting for us as first-time parents taking our kids into kindergarten. He’s ready: he knows everything, he’s met his teacher, he’s made friends, we’ve done meet and greets, and so it’s been really good.”
LaKemper wanted to make the transition to school life easier for both herself and Levi, so she knew it was important to get involved with the PTO before school even began.
“I thought it’d be really important because it was a new school and I felt like I wanted to be able to prepare my son to be a part of something before school even started, so he knew some kids and I knew some parents,” she said. “We had an opportunity to be really involved even before school started. Because I did that, he is comfortable and he is prepared, and I am as well, and I feel confident going into the school year.”
That preparation paid off for Levi and his family. Although he had some first-day-of-school jitters, Levi was visibly excited to go to his new classroom.
“We made the comment last night that this is the first of 14 years (of schooling) and we now have a child in school,” LaKemper said. “It’s a big transition, but I think he’s ready, and I think we’re ready for it. I think once he gets into the classroom, he’ll feel more confident. Once he makes friends and he sees some more kids, gets in and finds a place to put his backpack and he knows where he sits, he’ll be fine. It’ll be exciting.”
That seemed to ring true for Water Spring’s staff, as well. As the stream of parents and students dissipated, with everyone headed their separate ways, the school day was ready for kickoff — and so was Klaber.
“I think the first-day procedures went very well,” she said. “I know that it can be rocky starting with everybody coming into something new, and everybody’s learning systems at the same time. But the wonderful thing was that everybody was patient, everybody understood and everybody had a smile on their face. I think this morning was a success.”