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Chester County Press

A day of new beginnings as another school year arrives

08/27/2018 12:11PM ● By J. Chambless

A photographer for Unionville Elementary School took plenty of photos of arriving students. (Photo by John Chambless)

By John Chambless
Staff Writer

New shoes, bright backpacks and welcome-back hugs were a big part of the morning on Aug. 27 when students returned to schools throughout the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District.

At Unionville Elementary School, principal Michelle Lafferty was doing her best to be everywhere at once as the buses arrived just after 8:30 a.m. “Good morning! Happy new year!” she said again and again as children climbed down the bus steps and made their way into the building. There were nervous glances, broad grins and high-fives from the children, who ranged from wide-eyed kindergarteners to laid-back fifth graders who already knew the routine.

Bob Cochran of the U-CF School District was on hand to monitor the arrival of the buses on the first day, making sure there were no problems. The bus drivers smiled and said the biggest delays were caused by parents who all needed one last chance to take a photo of their students heading off to school.

The teachers at Unionville Elementary have been working on classroom preparations since Aug. 20, Lafferty said as she waited for the next bus to pull up to the school. “Oh my gosh, the kids are so excited. I love the first day of school,” she said. “On the 22nd, we had a Sneak a Peek/Parent Orientation combined for the first time. Everybody went and saw the classrooms, and the parents stayed in class and we took all the children into the auditorium for an awesome assembly. I'm getting very positive feedback about that.”

Lafferty has been principal at Unionville for three years, but has plenty of classroom experience from her 13 years as a teacher in the district. Her own son is 3, so the farewell at the school door has yet to happen to her personally, she said. “But he starts preschool next week, so I'm sure there will be some tears about that.”

For parents, the tears sometimes come when it's the first child they're dropping off for kindergarten, and when it's the last child, Lafferty said. “A lot of fifth grade parents get emotional, too, because it's the last year of elementary school,” she added.

Lafferty remembers her own first day of school rituals. “Oh my goodness, I remember mom always taking my picture out in the front yard. Embarrassing,” she said, smiling. “School shopping, too.”

To ease the transition for parents who may be sniffling after their child waves and goes to class, there is a “Boo-Hoo/Yahoo Breakfast” sponsored by the PTO, where parents meet, have some refreshments and console each other. Or celebrate.

The snacks were also good for younger siblings who weren't old enough for the school-day excitement yet.

Lafferty checked in, saying, “Anyone happy? Sad? Mixed? We just thought this was a nice opportunity to chat, and know that whatever feeling you're having is fine. Some of you may be happy, some of youy might be sad. That's OK. We've got some party horns, and we have some chocolates to melt away your sorrows.”
With smiles taking over for stoic expressions, the mood in the room lightened after a few minutes as the parents realized that the new milestone had been successfully crossed, and their child was somewhere in the building, getting a bright introduction to classmates and a new teacher.

And everyone was going to be OK.

To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email jchambless@chestercounty.com.


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