The first day of school is stressful under the best of circumstances: choosing the right outfit, navigating hallways and making new friends.
And then there will be no pandemic.
Across California, millions of children have returned to classrooms, including more than 600,000 students in the Los Angeles Unified School District who began classes Monday.
The first day, for many the first time back in a classroom since March 2020, was both monumental and oh-so-ordinary. Yes, there were masks and spaced lunches, but also reunions among friends, crying goodbyes to parents and confusing math problems.
Today we’re sharing photos from the first day of school from across the state, as well as some of the emails you sent me about how the big day went for you and your kids.
No Zoom link
Jeremy Edberg, parent of a 6-year-old in Cupertino
“I couldn’t be more excited about the first day of school! She’s my oldest, but I’ve been thinking about taking my kid to school since we bought our house 13 years ago. I burst into tears as she went in (no parents allowed, of course!) because I was excited to see her finally go to school on campus.”
Kristie Tappan, parent of a 6 year old
“She complained that there are a lot of rules in first grade. You would think she was frustrated with all the Covid rules, but no. The problem is that you have to take turns reading on the beanbag chair.”
Cara Meredith, parent of a third-grade son in Oakland who isn’t that interested in learning
“For a writing assignment last week, he replied:
What do you like most about being back at school? Interruption.
What is your favorite subject at school? Interruption.
How can I [his teacher] help you achieve your goals this year? give me more peaces.
What is a goal you have for yourself in third grade? Earn more breaks.
At first I tried to help him think in more academic terms, but… our kids have had the wringer for the past 16 months: the least I can do is help him earn more breaks.”
Ashley Ko, a high school senior in Saratoga, sent back this poem about her first day:
“I woke up 30 minutes earlier,
My eyes groggier than ZOOM eyes.
than that damn squeaky machine
18 months of endlessly staring into my laptop
The big hole of futuristic daydreams
or hope, I think.
packed my backpack (what?!) my lunch, and
A mask. (yes, please wear your mask, even though I am
fully vaccinated, please wear it)
Walked into the school, 9-12 swarming like bees
(Luckily I didn’t have a heart attack)
I was quite close to the parking lot, had a lot of thoughts
From turning back to…
“ASHLEY I HAVE NOT SEEN YOU FOR SO LONG!”
(Am I hugging? Uhh, am I awkwardly standing six feet away?)
Sitting in AP Language & Composition, forgotten
I walk into a classroom.
No ZOOM link.
30 minutes in class.
(I miss my cat.)
40 minutes in class.
(I miss going to the bathroom
50 minutes in class.
(I miss my snack supply,
60 minutes in class.
(I have to change my pants)
In sweatpants, NOW)
70 minutes in class
(I can’t wait to go home.)
I still have 2 classes to go.”
At least we got ‘Catcher in the Rye’
Julie Thompson, mother of 5-year-old twins in Oakland
“We showed up that first day and I’m glad we did. I’m always amazed at how they bloom when they’re back in school. I know other families have made different decisions and none of the options are great. We all do our best.”
Michele Garzon, parent of a fifth-grade son in Woodland Hills
“When I picked him up from school he seemed very happy but said it was weird and described different parts of the day to my teenage daughter and me as we walked home. They ate outside and were able to kickball (masks on), which was the highlight of his day.”
Kathy Kelley, parent of James in high school
“He loves his English class and is interested in two of the novels, ‘Catcher in the Rye’ and ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.’
James: “I probably won’t be able to read ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’.”
James: ‘The school will probably be closed… well, at least we have “Catcher in the Rye.”‘
Maybe Holden Caulfield is the right voice for this difficult time?”
Sad, but in a good way
Jesus Gonzales, high school statistics teacher
“At the end of the day, I had students in my class, all masked correctly, talking to each other and discussing a statistical problem; lunch with my fellow teachers; hearing announcements over the intercom – I felt something I’ve been missing for the past year and a half: hope and an inner sadness for lost time.
Julie McPherson, who reconnected with another parent while dropping off her third grader
“A father found me this morning and reminded me that the last time we spoke, we were speculating about the school closing. That was early March 2020, days before the Bay Area shutdown. … When I saw him again, I cried – I missed talking to him every morning! I would have hugged him if we were still doing something like that. It is remarkable how much time that passes is both elongated and compressed.”
Karen Liu, mother of three young children
“We dropped our kids off for the first day of school today and it was so bittersweet! This is the only year they are all in the same school… I’m not worried about Covid as the school is taking precautions. More worried about what will happen if our little guy has to poop…”
Jenny Wong, parent of a 2-year-old in LA kindergarten
“When I dropped her off I said, ‘Have fun with your new friends, I love you. See you later,’ my throat swelled and I walked the long way home looking at pictures of her… My main feeling is pure happiness, knowing that she has her own space to make friends and to play, play, play, sad, but in a good way.”
“I can look straight into the sun,” said Anthony Wexler, director of the Air Quality Research Center at the University of California, Davis, “and it doesn’t bother me at all.”
what we eat
In her latest newsletter, California restaurant critic Tejal Rao talks about a spice-packed aioli that’s luscious enough to be the center of a real feast.
Where we are traveling
My colleagues at T Magazine recommend a stay at Cuyama Buckhorn, a resort near salt flats and wildflower fields in the remote high desert of Santa Barbara County, three hours northeast of Los Angeles.
And before you go, good news
Phew, my heart.
The annual three-legged dog picnic returned to San Francisco’s Duboce Park this weekend. The images SFist has posted are the cutest things I’ve seen in a long time. Enjoying.
Thank you for reading. Have a nice weekend. I’ll be back on Monday. — Soumya
PS Here is today’s mini crossword, and a clue: making a bad decision? (4 letters).
Jeremiah M. Bogert, Jr., Shelby Knowles, Miles McKinley, and Steven Moity contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].
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