Cars lined up along 48th Street. Police directing traffic. Groups of people carrying bright bags as they made their way down the sidewalk.

No, this wasn't more road construction in Ahwatukee, nor was it some kind of street fair. Monday's scene was the first day of school in Ahwatukee Foothills.

Horizon Community Learning Center was the first school to welcome students back to class this fall; most other Ahwatukee schools are getting ready to go back to class Aug. 9. Horizon boasts about 1,500 students in preschool through high school, a figure that includes about 100 new kindergarteners.

After dropping their young students off at class, around 70 parents, grandparents and other family members gathered in Horizon's multipurpose room for an official welcome.

Parents meandered in after spending time in their children's classrooms, some hugging people they recognized and others shaking hands as they met fellow kindergarten parents for the first time.

At one table, Kari Watkins and Beto Otero sat after dropping their only son, Matthew Otero, off for his first day as a student.

Watkins said they had been preparing Matthew to start class, practicing things like packing his backpack and manners.

Matthew did alright starting class, but it was a different story for dad.

"It's horrible," Otero said. "I'm having a hard time."

Otero and Watkins sat next to parent Shakira Pacheco. Starting kindergarten wasn't a huge deal for her son, Liam, since he had just completed a summer preschool program and was used to class at this point.

"He's been in school, so he was ready to go," Pacheco said. "He just finished summer school on Friday."

This is the first time at Horizon for Pacheco, who said she enrolled her son because she had heard good things from other parents. That was Otero and Watkins's reason for picking the school, too.

Before they dive into the rest of the school year, Otero is taking things a couple days at a time. He took a few days off work to help his son prepare for class and was looking forward to bringing him to school again on Tuesday.

Although the days off may be good for Otero, too.

"I don't want to go to work with swollen eyes," he said with a smile.

After greeting each other, parents got an official welcome from staff at the school.

Principal Laura Wanstreet said she knew what parents were going through as they dropped their children off at kindergarten for the first time, since she has kids at the school herself.

She encouraged parents to get involved, volunteer and familiarize themselves with the whole school, not only the kindergarten area.

"The name of our school, Horizon Community Learning Center, is there by design," Wanstreet said. "It's more than a school. It's a community."

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.