Students experience first day jitters at Calera Elementary

CALERA – More than 21,000 students in seven different communities throughout the county returned to the classroom on Tuesday, Aug. 7, marking the first day of class for Shelby County Schools.

About 700 of those students attend Calera Elementary, said principal Genet Holcomb. The first day of school at Calera Elementary proved to be just as emotional for parents as it was for students.

But kindergartener, Jenna Hidalgo, was excited about the journey ahead.

“She’s been really excited to start school, but she’s also shy and a little nervous,” Jennifer Hidalgo said as her daughter took selfies outside of school with her father. “She’s just doesn’t want us to leave her.”

Another kindergartener, Richie Burrows, was not feeling as optimistic.

“I don’t want to be here,” he proclaimed as his mother, Sarah Burrows, took pictures of him before entering school.

Even though he attended the school’s Kindergarten Camp this summer, Richie was still uneasy about starting school.

“He’s just nervous,” Richie’s mother said. “This is my first time leaving my son. He’s used to being at home every day. We did preschool at home, so he’s just sad about not being with me during the day. It’s going to be a big adjustment for us. It’s emotional and sad – my baby boy is going to school.”

Aside from first-day jitters, Holcomb said the K-2 school has experienced some growth this school year and is looking to hire two new teachers during the first week of school.

“We’ve grown by about 30 kids and we’re so excited,” Holcomb said on the morning of Aug. 7. “We’re adding a kindergarten and first grade class. Every child is in a class, so we’ll just be decreasing the teacher-to-student ratio by adding one more kindergarten and first grade class.”

Holcomb said parents will be notified by the end of the week if their child is moving to a new class. Aside from the growing pains, Holcomb said the morning of the first day of school went well.

“There’s a lot going on, but everything is running smoothly right now,” she said. “We’re usually a lot more lenient on the first day – we let parents walk kids to class, go with them to breakfast and we’re not as strict with the tardy bell. We realize it’s a special day so we want to give them that time.”

Holcomb added that the first week of school is a transition period for everyone.

“During the first week, we don’t expect kids to know everything and we’re not reprimanding students, but teaching and training them so that the learning environment is set,” she said. “We want to set the tone that it’s okay to make mistakes. We want them to feel safe and secure so that they’re more likely to try new things. Academics will come easier after that.”

Because starting school is an emotional time for both parents and students, so Holcomb said she discourages parents from attending lunch with their child during the first week.

“If they’ve had a hard goodbye that morning, to have to do it again at lunchtime doesn’t help the transition process,” Holcomb said. “Even if it’s not their parent visiting, if a child sees someone else’s mom here it can stir up emotions of ‘I miss my mom.’ We need time to establish procedures and get them comfortable with their new environment.”

In the past few days before school, Holcomb said teachers also participated in professional development sessions on team building and communication. They also discussed taking care tof themselves so that they can be their best for the students.

“We can’t be what we need to be if we’re not caring for ourselves, and that’s a great model for our kids to see,” Holcomb said.

For the first time this year, kindergarteners also took first-day-of-school pictures. A photographer visited the school to take pictures and parents will have an opportunity to have a portrait style photo of their child as a keepsake.