Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2007

Jitters give way to excitement

The first day of school isn’t always easy

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Brian Lewis⁄The Gazette
Deanna Herbers gives some reassurance to her daughter Kyanna as the young girl prepares for her first day of kindergarten at Flower Hill Elementary School in Gaithersburg.
With bright smiles, mostly dry eyes and cameras dangling, parents watched and waved as their children trotted off to the first day back to school at Flower Hill Elementary in northeast Gaithersburg on Monday.

The school, at 18425 Flower Hill Way near Woodfield Road, was abuzz with chatter outside beneath a sunny, cloudless sky. Class resumed at all 200 Montgomery County Public Schools on Monday, including 36 in Gaithersburg, Montgomery Village, Washington Grove and Laytonsville.

Kindergartners queued in four rows in front of the school on a playground decorated with colorful chalk hopscotch designs.

While there, some socialized, some stood quietly, while others fidgeted with the straps to their SpongeBob SquarePants and Spider-Man backpacks that are nearly two-thirds their own size.

‘‘Mommy, mommy, mommy,” Isaac Esskezaw, 5, called from the front of a line to nearby Tigist Negia.

She smiled back, but said that she feels badly because this is the first time Isaac will be separated from his 4-year-old brother Jacob, who is in day care.

Isaac grinned and said that he was not sad, but was excited and proudly demonstrated his ability to spell his first and last name.

Annie Ahmed, Parent Teacher Association president at Flower Hill, said she’s learned from experience that the first day of school can run smoothly. Her son Tyler is in kindergarten.

‘‘I’m not as bad this time as when my daughter was in kindergarten. I was a wreck,” Ahmed said with a laugh.

Her daughter Tulani is in fifth grade at Flower Hill. She helped direct other students as part of her patrolling duties on Monday, Ahmed said.

First-day butterflies aren’t reserved only for parents and children. School counselor Deena Kotlewski said she’s been at Flower Hill for nine years, and the ‘‘first day of school jitters” still persist.

‘‘I’ve been up since 2 a.m.,” she said without a hint of weariness, adding that she’s fueled by excitement.

For fourth-grader Carlos Peredo, adjusting from the lazy summer days of getting up at 10 a.m., to a 7 a.m. alarm wasn’t very difficult, he said.

Peredo had a lightness in his step as he walked with his camouflaged backpack in tow and his mother, Elfy Barbery, at his side.

‘‘He was really happy. He got ready before me,” Barbery laughed, adding that she walks to school with him at least once a week.

Carlos, like many students, said he was excited to see his friends again, but confessed a little anxiety about the challenging classes up ahead.

‘‘It’s gonna get harder,” Carlos said, still smiling.

When the bell rang at 8:45 a.m., teachers ushered the students inside. Many walked straight ahead, pausing to wave, as with one blonde boy who turned and cheerfully said, ‘‘Bye mommy!”

‘‘They’re off, they’re off,” Chris Reed said shortly after the students had left.

Reed, along with wife Beverly, were seeing their second and last child, Madison, enter kindergarten.

Now that both are in school, including fourth-grader Hunter, things will be different around the house, Beverly Reed said.

‘‘It’s sort of sad that we won’t have them at home,” she said.