FAIRFIELD — Five-year-old Dylan Cameron gave kindergarten a passing grade and he hadn’t even started his first day.
“I like kindergarten,” Dylan said after he arrived at Center Elementary School on Thursday morning, carrying his supplies in a light-up Avengers backpack.
About 5,400 students began the 2013-14 school year Thursday in the Travis School District. The district serves parts of Fairfield and Vacaville, including Travis Air Force Base.
An adrenaline rush of arriving cars and yellow school buses began at Center Elementary School shortly before 8 a.m. The school had come to life again after summer vacation.
Dominic and Elizabeth Cameron took photos of their son Dylan with their cellphones a few minutes before kindergarten began.
“I’m excited for him,” Dominic Cameron said. “It is a big step. I’m excited for him to learn new things and meet new friends.”
But the first day of kindergarten can be bittersweet.
“I’m very overprotective – just letting him go and giving him into someone else’s care,” Elizabeth Cameron said, though she added that Center is a closed campus.
Mariah Aguiling arrived to enter first grade. The first day of school brought some stresses for her, given that many of her former kindergarten classmates would be in other classes.
“Kind of scared, because I have to meet new people,” Mariah said.
Her mother Martha Aguiling is a veteran parent when it comes to dealing with school. She also has children at Golden West Middle School and Vanden High School. Both schools are in the Travis School District and a short distance from Center.
“You just go with the flow on the first day,” she said.
Melissa Yao faced her first day of school, but not as a student. She began her teaching career at Center with a kindergarten class.
“I just want to make sure I’m living up to the goals and mission Center promotes,” Yao said in the quiet just before the rush of children hit.
She prepared to deal with kindergartners who might have some nervousness about embarking on their school careers.
“I think it’s just showing them we’re a very welcoming environment – big smiles on our faces,” Yao said. “Just showing them this is our classroom and we’re growing together.”
Center saw a big increase in the number of children signed up for the school year, from 425 last year to more than 500, Principal Mark Pennington said. He attributed this in part to growth in Fairfield’s Gold Ridge subdivision. The school has room to handle growth, he added.
Most of Fairfield is served by the Fairfield-Suisun School District, with the Travis district having schools in the northeast part of the city. Most of Vacaville is served by the Vacaville School District, with Travis having schools in the southern part of the city.
“We kind of get forgotten about, because we’re small and we’re sandwiched between two bigger districts,” School Board President Angela Weinzinger said. “But we have a great district.”
Some changes have taken place, she said. The district has some new employees, among them a new director of curriculum and new chief business officer.
And there are challenges, such as the state’s recently passed revamp of school funding called the “Local Control Funding Formula” that is to be implemented in coming years. Weinzinger called this a “moving target.”
“Budgets are always tight here in California,” she said. “There’s no other way to put it.”
This small school district could see explosive growth in coming decades. Brushy, rolling hills visible across the street from Center are targeted by Fairfield to be the city’s growth hot spot, with more than 6,000 new homes. The question, Weinzinger said, is when the growth will come.
“At this point it’s very difficult to know, until we get an absolute positive turnabout with the economy,” she said.
But that growth is for another day. For now, there’s another school year to deal with, as the district’s nine schools once again hum with activity.
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.