PLAINFIELD – New first-grader Nicholas Newell shuffled out of River View Elementary School on Thursday to his family with a wide smile on his face.
The first day of school had just finished Thursday afternoon, and the smile was a big turnaround from the morning, when his mother Michelle Fadke said he was scared and didn’t want to leave her as she dropped him off.
“He’s a little more attached to me,” she said. “I was a little nervous, just wondering how he was going to react.”
But when asked how he felt in the morning, the 6-year-old said, “I was excited,” with a blush and a sly grin.
Plainfield Community Consolidated School District 202 opened its schools Thursday, one of a handful of districts in Will and Grundy counties to kick off the 2014-15 academic year. And students were bustling around with excitement.
Nicholas’ favorite part of the first day was recess and physical education.
“We wanted to just go and run inside, but in PE, those teachers said we can even go out,” he said.
Nicholas’ older brother, 12-year-old Zachary Fadke, finished his first day as a seventh-grader earlier across the lawn at Timber Ridge Middle School.
“We learned a few things and it was a good day,” said Zachary, who is looking forward to his language arts classes this year. “We got to meet with friends and talk about what we did over the summer.”
Parents held in their nervousness as they sent off their kids with a “have a good day at school.”
Plainfield resident Steve Orlando’s eldest son James Orlando, 6, also started first grade at River View.
“It’s his first full day of school [after kindergarten], a whole new experience with having to eat at lunch,” Orlando said. “He wanted to get to the bus stop as early as possible. He’s just really psyched and excited to learn.”
Orlando said his neighborhood has several parents of similar-aged children and neighbors who keep an eye on the kids at bus stops and while traveling to and from school.
“Last year when he was first in kindergarten, it was a little more worrisome,” Orlando said. “But now he’s a pro with the bus. Just to see that smile on his face made me so happy.”
Other parents were veterans at sensing the butterflies knot the stomachs of their anxious children.
“This is really my last first day of school,” said Plainfield resident Lucia Robles, whose four kids all went through Plainfield North High School.
Robles’ youngest, Angel, started his senior year at Plainfield North on Thursday. In the past, she’s helped get her son ready before every school year. But this year, he did most of the preparation himself.
“I’m so proud feeling that they know how to take care of themselves,” Robles said. “Yesterday, I was picking up some supplies and I do feel kind of sad because this is going to be the last time. As I was entering the store, I saw those school lists and I think back of the days I used them.”
It wasn’t just the first day for students. It was Lane Abrell’s first day of school as district superintendent.
“It’s been a good one so far,” Abrell said. “The buildings look in great shape and the students are very excited.”
Abrell said the first day of school is very crucial for the rest of the year.
“It’s really hard to recreate the first day,” Abrell said. “At high school maybe you have another semester, but at the elementary level there really isn’t a second chance at building a good connection between the teacher, student and friends.”
From the promotion of eighth-graders to high school to school bus schedules, school board President Roger Bonuchi said the first day of school is also about adjusting.
“It’s a time where we have a lot of visibility across the school district,” Bonuchi said. “It’s an adjustment period and things will always happen with a school district this size. But they’ll get ironed out quickly.”