Five-year-old Annika Hunter seemed to be walking on air on Thursday. She skipped and hopped and danced almost nonstop, the tutu-like skirt of her delicate pink dress bouncing up and down, around the kindergarten playground area before classes started at the George McParland School Annex on Thursday.
Her more reserved playmates – William Dourett, 5, who is also starting kindergarten this year, and his sisters Sophia, 3, and Lucy, 1 – opted to watch quietly under the watchful eyes of their parents, Karen Dourett and Kelly Hunter, who are good friends.
“They’ve been waiting for this day,” Kelly Hunter said of her daughter and family friend William.
“Excited” was the word of the day for many of the preschoolers who arrived bright and early Thursday morning at the McParland School Annex on Primavera Avenue about two blocks from the main campus on Northgate Drive in northwest Manteca. Parents, grandparents, and siblings were all there to make the youngsters’ first day in kindergarten as pleasant an experience as possible with no separation anxieties.
Proud parents Mike Hohn, a Manteca city firefighter, and his wife Lori looked like they were marching their daughter and only child Katie, 5, down the aisle as each held their child’s hand walking from the car to her classroom.
For young Lia Menor, she was accompanied to school not just by her parents Leila and Richard Menor but her fifth-grade sister Lauryn as well. At one point, the solicitous older sister asked her younger sibling, “Are you OK?” Lia simply gave a smile that matched the big plumeria hairclip on her dark hair. The exotic flower was a gift from her grandmother in Hawaii.
Mom Jennifer Phares said her daughter was “extremely excited” to be starting school in kindergarten. After attending the orientation on Tuesday, Phares said her daughter couldn’t wait to be back in the classroom with her teacher, Miss Vasquez, and listen to her read stories.
“She said her teacher has a nice voice,” Phares said of her daughter’s comment after that first encounter during the orientation.
“She’s excited to read. She’s ready to learn, to read,” she said smiling broadly at her daughter.
Young Sterrie McLeod IV who sported a well-coiffed Mohawk for his first day of school showed a bit of anxiety, but his parents Misti and Sterrie and younger sister Kennedy, 3, were there to cheer him up and shower him with lots of love and attention. Proud father Sterrie works both as a fire captain with the Manteca City Fire Department, and as an EMT with the Manteca Ambulance District. Very pregnant mom, Misti, is expecting their third child, a girl, in September.
She said she is excited to see both of her children starting school this year.
“I know they’ll make lots of friends and learn lots of stuff,” she said.
After young Sterrie was settled in his classroom, the McLeods then proceeded to their next stop-over for the morning – Lions and Lambs Preschool at the Calvary Community Church on East Lathrop Road to drop off their daughter who is also starting preschool this year.
Another proud parent, Ashley Mejia, said she was both “excited and sad” to see her older child begin a major milestone in her young life.
“She’s growing,” she said in a voice filled with nostalgia as she gazed at her daughter who was pushing her five-month-old baby sister, McKenzie, in a stroller as she walked to her classroom with her mother and father, Vincent.
“They’re very close,” Ashley Mejia said of her two children.