GORHAM — Hailee Willey and Jayden Racine climbed onto the long yellow bus and into the seat they would share for one of the shortest, most exciting rides of their lives.

Both kindergartners were dressed in their back-to-school best.

Hailee wore a red blouse, a plaid skirt and a shiny red headband.

Jayden wore a black motorcycle T-shirt, jeans and black sneakers with bright white laces.

As the bus roared to life and began its slow tour of the neighborhood off Route 25, Jayden gave serious consideration and wide-eyed approval to his first ride.

“It’s good,” he concluded simply.

Monday was the first day of school for students in some Maine school districts, such as Gorham and Brunswick.

Other districts, including Falmouth, South Portland and Westbrook, will start classes later this week.

Portland and Biddeford students will return to school on Sept. 7.

This year promises to be challenging for many districts because reductions in state and federal funding have forced budget and staffing cuts that may or may not be offset by recent congressional action to preserve teaching jobs.

But school finances were of little concern to most parents Monday as they delivered their 5-year-olds to the Narragansett School, which serves students in kindergarten through second grade.

This year, the Narragansett School has about 140 kindergartners divided among four teachers, with four kindergarten sessions each morning and four each afternoon.

“Welcome to kindergarten,” Principal Brad Smith announced Monday afternoon as mothers and fathers entered the school with their children in tow.

It was an extra special day for Julia Altham, who also lost her first tooth Monday morning.

“She’s a multi-tasker,” said her mother, Corinne Altham, who is a computer teacher in the South Portland elementary schools.

When Julia entered her classroom, her father, Richard Altham, helped her find her name tag and affixed it to the shoulder of her green dress.

He told her, “That’s your name,” then gently guided her into the room.

Monday was an introductory day for Narragansett’s kindergartners.

They visited their classrooms, met their classmates, toured the playground and took their inaugural bus ride.

Parents met with the kindergarten teachers and the principal.

Weston and Tara Sommers brought their son, Mason, who discovered colorful Play-Doh soon after he entered Kim Wright’s classroom and demonstrated great skill in creating various shapes with it.

“He was happy when he learned that several of his friends from Sunny Days Child Care are in his class,” Weston Sommers said.

Caitlin O’Brien and Jamie Morton delivered their daughter, Madison, to Sharon Wescott’s classroom.

Morton said he was glad to take the day off from his truck-driving job to make sure his daughter’s education got off to a good start.

“It’s a pretty special first day,” Morton said.

O’Brien, who is a day-care provider, said she believes that including parents in the first day of kindergarten eases the transition for many students.

Still, the experience was uncomfortable for some.

Katie Martin was brought to tears by the prospect of riding the bus without her mother, Amy Martin, no matter how short the trip would be.

The girl in the polka-dot dress managed to complete the five-minute excursion with the reassuring guidance of her bus driver, Doreen Grondin, who calmly instructed the students to stay seated as long as the bus was vibrating.

“We’ll see how it goes when the real bus comes to pick her up tomorrow,” Amy Martin said.


Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at: [email protected]


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