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Rio Vista welcomes students back

Elementary school reunites friends and embraces new families for new school year

Posted: August 24, 2009 4:25 p.m.
Updated: August 25, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Parents and students reunited with friends and got their new class assignments at Welcome Back Night. The new school year began Aug. 19.

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Back-to-school jitters were kicked to the curb when Rio Vista Elementary School hosted the annual Welcome Back Night on Tuesday.

Parents, students and PTA members gathered on school grounds to welcome new and returning students into the 2009-10 school year, which started on Wednesday for the Saugus Union School District.

Students at the welcome-back event were ready to start the new year.

"We want to find out who our new teacher will be," said returning student Justin Gee, 11.

Gee will be entering the last year of his K-6 education at the school and is excited to have a new teacher.

But he's not alone.

"Once you find out your teacher, the most important thing is who is in your class," said upcoming sixth-grader, Cody Miller, 11.

Miller and Gee are best friends who have been in the same classroom for the last four years.

"I like this night because I get to see friends I haven't seen all summer," Miller said. "I'm excited to start another year with them and a new teacher."

"This is like Christmas morning for the kids," said Derek Ballard, who has two children returning to the school.

"It's really great to see them so excited and join everyone else in starting off the year," Ballard said.

Anticipation mounted as parents and students were kept waiting until precisely 5 p.m. when the list of classmates and teachers were posted for each grade.

As the lists were presented, students scrambled to discover their fates for the upcoming term.

"It would be hard not to like one of the teachers here," said Gee, who is glad to be in Mrs. O'Brian's sixth-grade class. "They all think like kids, but are also really helpful. They have fun with us, but then get down to business when they need to."

One PTA member sees how engaged teachers are with students.

"The teachers are amazing with the kids," said PTA President Amy Frank.

Frank co-chairs the position with Tess Sorrentino and both parents agree on why an active approach to learning is so important.

"We have spirit assemblies and the teachers dress up and do activities with the students," Frank said. "It brings everyone closer together and creates a big family feeling that all the students and parents can feel."

The PTA's "Posting Party," as the welcome-back event has come to be known, is just the first of many throughout the school year to improve school spirit and form bonds.

"We take care of each other at this school," Sorrentino said. "I feel blessed to be a part of such a strong unit of people."

The welcome back event occurs before the first day of the school year to bring back familiar faces and welcome all new ones.

"We find this is a great way to introduce ourselves to new students and their families," said Rio Vista Principal Isa De Armas. "It can be hard when you are brand new to a school and don't know what to expect. It just helps them know that everything is going to be alright before the hectic school year begins."

Returning sixth-grade volunteers showed the ropes to new students through a tour of the school.

Parents were given information about important programs and events occurring throughout the school year.

The Santa Clarita Valley Food Service Agency was available to answer questions about school lunch programs, pricing and nutrition.

Students and their families had the chance to purchase refreshments such as slushies and home-baked goodies from the PTA bake sale.

Spirit wear was also available for purchase, but returning families didn't need a t-shirt to show love for their school.

"There is such a tremendous atmosphere of support here," said parent, David Andrews.

Each one of Andrews' four children has attended the school since kindergarten.

"We love being a part of this family and we wouldn't be anywhere else," Andrews said.

Rio Vista didn't stop at welcome back night.

A kindergarten tea was also held that morning to welcome the newest of the school's family members.

"We are like kids at heart," said De Armas. "The staff and teachers are always dressing up for spirit days and dancing during school dances. They just make learning fun."

The school will host its official back-to-school night on Sept. 3, when a more formal presentation of school programs and goals will be presented to new and returning parents.

"We like people to promote the sense of everybody coming together and taking active part in their child's education," said De Armas.

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