Alexis Lannon woke up at 12:30 a.m. Monday with an excitement she had never felt before. The soon-to-be kindergartner found her mother Jennifer and was anxious to know: "Is it time for school yet?"

"She was so excited," said Jennifer, whose 5-year-old daughter began her education a little later that morning at Kyrene de la Estrella. "But for me, the bus was the hardest. When the bus came and she got on, that was really hard for me to watch."

That scene played out all across Ahwatukee Foothills on Monday as busses pulled in, parents waved goodbye and thousands of students heard the bell ring to start the 2011-12 school year.

For some, like Alexis, it was their first first day. For others it will be their first last day before secondary education, the military or the workforce beckons.

Estrella's new principal Dave Maloney walked around the front of the school Monday morning, greeting first-timers and welcoming back parents. This is his 23rd year in the Kyrene School District and he said it will in all likelihood be the last.

"I love the kids here, they are awesome," he said. "I retired five years ago but they asked me to come back. ... After 23 years, I don't think the love and caring has changed inside schools. Parents are as involved as they ever were."

At around 8 a.m. the bells rang, the parents said their goodbyes and the kids took their seats, ready to begin another, and for some their first, school year.

"The anxiety has gone away on the first day," Maloney said. "The teachers have been preparing for weeks and the kids were running through the doors to get to their new classrooms. Everyone is ready to go."

Mountain Pointe High School welcomed an estimated 785 freshmen onto campus this year. MP principal Bruce Kipper said they were up 110 students overall from last year.

He said this was due to an increased number of open-enrollment students from Maricopa who are bussed in.

"Parents are more aware of choices these days," Kipper said. "They shop around and I think our academic offerings and academies are attractive to parents."

The move from middle to high school can be a shock, but Kipper said MP has several things in place to help ease the transition. They focus on the first nine weeks and making sure that a student doesn't fall behind.

And if he or she does, they help them make up that ground with options like the academic lab, which was reinstated this year.

"The first nine weeks are crucial to a student's success in the long run," Kipper said. "If they fall behind and get over their head, they will lose time just try to recover and keep up."

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