Students and parents had a lot to be excited about on Monday morning, the first day of school in Manatee County.
Three campuses — Barbara A. Harvey Elementary School, Dr. Mona Jain Middle School and Parrish Community High School — opened their doors for the first time. They joined dozens of campuses in welcoming students to the 2019-2020 school year.
While many students were entering their final stretch of high school, one year away from universities and careers, others were just starting their education. Elementary students began their journey at 8:25 a.m., five minutes earlier than past years.
Zylar Mullennax, 4, was greeted with a lollipop during the recent orientation at Jessie P. Miller Elementary School, and he was excited for the prospect of more candy in the weeks to come.
Like many elementary students, 6-year-old Draya Wilson was excited for recess. Her cousin, Payton Williams, was equally excited for some quality outdoor time, but she had reservations.
“I get nervous when bugs bite me,” she said.
Sharing his own expectations for kindergarten, 5-year-old Lincoln Dahlberg said he was “excited about toys.” When asked if he was nervous, Dahlberg answered with a resounding “no.”
His family moved from Colorado to Florida several weeks ago, and they were eager for Lincoln to meet new friends and learn new skills.
“I was born and raised here,” said his mother, Brittney. “That’s probably my biggest excitement, personally, is that he gets to attend the same school I went to.”
About 4 miles southwest of Miller Elementary, at Sea Breeze Elementary School, kindergarten students arrived to a message in Jennifer Minor’s classroom.
“Happy first day of kindergarten,” it read. “We will meet new friends and learn about our classroom this week. It’s going to be a great year. Love, Mrs. Minor.”
Backpacks — many decorated with characters from PAW Patrol or the Avengers — were slung across miniature chairs. One student donned a paper crown to celebrate his birthday, while another student raised her pointer finger in the air, the sign for “bathroom” in Minor’s classroom.
When asked by his teacher, one students said he felt “great” about the first day of school. Another said she was “awesome,” while a third felt “cool.” Minor then asked if the students were nervous, prompting one girl to raise her hand.
“You know, teachers get a little bit nervous for the first day, too,” Minor responded.
Her students were among 49,000 others to start school on Monday morning, when a fleet of bicycles, cars and school buses filled the streets of Manatee County. Other students walked alongside family members and friends, under the watchful eye of a crossing guard.
Standing on a crosswalk near Sea Breeze Elementary, Barbara Seipel urged drivers to slow down and respect the stop signs.
“Where else do you get paid to smile and wave?” she said. “And I get a smile and a wave back — I love it.”
Seipel became a crossing guard with the City of Bradenton about four months ago. In her short career, Seipel witnessed drivers talking on cellphones, eating breakfast and applying makeup.
Students are focused on a new school year, and residents should be focused on safe driving, she said, offering advice for the new school year.
“Leave early and pay attention to what’s going on around you.”