BRISTOL - The young students of Stafford Elementary School were posing for photos, greeting their friends and looking for the right place to line up for their new classrooms Thursday morning.
“She’s excited and nervous, we both are,” said Nicole Bonvisuto, mother of 5-year-old Sedona, who was wearing a sweatshirt with a bright pink hood for her first day of kindergarten.
Sedona got to see her new school before at an open house and she has played soccer here so she knows where things are, Bonvisuto said. “And her best friend is going to school with her so she’ll be fine.”
Principal Kristin Irvine said the first day was going great. “We’re getting everybody where they need to be and there are lots of smiling faces so far. I haven’t seen any tears yet.”
“We have a whole new theme this year at Stafford,” she said. “It’s that everybody is to be safe, respectful, and responsible. We’re going to do a lot with kindness, and just getting everybody on the same page of making good choices - adults, students, anybody coming through our building.”
As the school buses were making their drop-offs, the Tower 1 fire truck sounded its horn and pulled up in front of the school and Leon Blais jumped out, ready for his first day of kindergarten.
Wearing a big grin and his PAW Patrol backpack, 5-year-old Leon gave a fist bump to Irvine, as his parents Jeremy and Heather Blais, and 2-year-old sister Scarlett watched.
Leon was this year’s winner of the district-wide early kindergarten registration lottery, with the fire truck ride as his prize.
“Is this the funnest day ever?” Jeremy Blais asked him.
“Yup,” Leon replied. “I never been on a fire truck except today, and if there’s another one I’m gonna win it.”
“He loves his fire trucks,” Jeremy Blais said. “He has been talking about the first day of school all summer. I’m excited for him.”
The Bristol Early Childhood Alliance and the School Readiness Council have been holding the lottery every year since 2009 to encourage parents to enroll students in kindergarten before the end of the previous school year, according to MaryAlice Petrucelli-Timek, school readiness grant manager.
It’s a great way to get parents’ attention and involving the fire department demonstrates community spirit, she said. “It shows that people work together to make sure kindergarten children feel welcome and everyone has a successful school career. That’s the School Readiness Council’s aim, making everyone feel welcome and making sure everyone succeeds.”
Early registration offers a lot of benefits to children and parents, they find out where the bookmobile is, they get a tour of a fire station, and they get an ice cream and book giveaway, Petrucelli-Timek said.
Leon attended the ice cream and book giveaway at Stafford and was talking about how excited he was that he won the fire truck ride, she said. “At our Countdown to Kindergarten program at the library we had about five or six kids that had their fire tour T-shirts on, so it was so exciting to see that parents were taking advantage of every opportunity we were offering.”
As of the last day of the previous school year, 405 students were registered for kindergarten for 2017-18 and by the first day school 555 children were registered, so about 72 percent were registered “on time,” Petrucelli-Timek said.
For 2016-17 about 77 percent were registered on time, so there was a slight decrease that could be attributed to the school district’s new system of centralized registration, she said.
All families of new and transfer students entering kindergarten through eighth grade in the city’s public schools for 2017-18 had to register in one centralized location - the Board of Education offices, 129 Church St. Previously, families would register their children at the schools the children would be attending.
There are always parents who register their kids late, Petrucelli-Timek said. “It makes the most sense to know who’s coming in prior to the first day of school because that determines class sizes, teachers, a lot of things depend on that. We always hope to get the most registered as early as possible.”
Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or firstname.lastname@example.org.