It’s 6:43 a.m. on a Tuesday. A mother, cell phone in hand, asks her son to pose for a photo as they stand a few feet away from the front doors to Apache Junction High School, 2525 S. Ironwood Drive.
Students walk by, yawning and rubbing their eyes. They’ve spent summer vacation without a wake-up call and now, on the first day of school, the alarm went off early and their bodies have yet to adjust.
“I was waking up at eight,” sophomore Jasmine Martin says. “I woke up at five this morning.”
AJHS principal Dr. Chris Lineberry watches as the students check their maps of the school, uncertain as to where they’re headed.
“This is like Christmas morning,” Lineberry says. “I’m super excited to have the kids back on campus. It just feels good.”
That was the prevailing sentiment across the Apache Junction Unified School District as the 2021-22 school year began July 27. Oh, there were a few tears as younger children were dropped off but the teachers at each school were quick to encourage and comfort.
At Peralta Trail Elementary School a young boy tried to wipe away his tears as a teacher put her arm around him.
“There’s nothing to be scared of,” she said. “I’m not going to leave your side the whole time.”
“It’s so exciting that this is the first day of school and I get to see all these kids’ bright, shiny faces,” Peralta Trail principal Natalie Clement said. “I loved seeing the kids out on the playground. They weren’t able to be out there last year.”
At Desert Vista Elementary School, administrators hung a colorful “Welcome Back” display at the front entrance of the school. Outside the doors, at about 7:45 a.m., parents waited with their kids for the school to open. B.J. Gleason held hands with his daughter, Luna, who he would take to The Learning Center and son, Cade, who was beginning fourth grade at Desert Vista.
For parents, too, it was a special day.
“They’re gone so I can go home and get work done,” Gleason said with a smile.
The first day of school is never worry-free. Some students at Cactus Canyon Junior High School couldn’t figure out their schedule. A few first-graders at Four Peaks Elementary School weren’t sure where their classrooms were.
But there was always a helpful voice. As a young girl at Four Peaks looked around, uncertain, a boy in a blue shirt walked alongside her and said, “Mrs. Smith’s (classroom) is right here. Follow me.”
Off they went, stride for stride, ready to take on the school year.
Editor’s note: Scott Bordow is director of AJUSD’s communications and community engagement.