Jamie Tucker's kindergarten classroom was packed Thursday.
The room's occupants sat in tiny, child-sized chairs, anxiously listening as Tucker explained classroom rules and procedures, raising their hands every few minutes to ask a question about lunches, recess and class projects.
Meanwhile, their children played outside.
Parents and their kindergartners began filing into Tucker's Grover Beach Elementary School classroom at 8:30 a.m. Thursday for the first day of classes, as students across the Lucia Mar Unified School District returned to school in a flood of new backpacks, school supplies and palpable excitement. It was a scene being carried out in school districts across the county this week and next.
The excitement was definitely evident with the new kindergartners.
"I was thinking I was gonna be a little bit nervous and a little bit scared, but I just realized, kindergarten is really fun!" said Zoe Pardubsky, 5, as she took a break from swinging during recess. Zoe said she thinks her favorite part about going to school will be "playing and learning things."
"I really like playing, and my favorite part about playing is swinging and playing on the monkey bars," she said before proudly exclaiming that she had picked out her outfit that day — a purple dress and leggings — because it was her favorite dress that she wore "for like 16 weeks" during the summer.
"And I've already made friends," she said before running back to the jungle gym to join her classmates.
Koby Sanchez, 5, was slightly quieter about his excitement.
"Last year I went there ‘cause I was 4," he said motioning to the school's preschool area. "But this year I'm 5 so I get to go here."
Across town, Grover Heights Elementary school also welcomed new students like Gracie Tripp, 4, who will attend transitional kindergarten for younger students born between September and December.
Tripp was bouncing as she walked up to school carrying her pink and purple Elsa backpack, with a matching lunchbox inside.
"I like the things that you hang and swing on," she said, noting that she's most looking forward to playing during recess. "Last night I was on those and it was so fun!"
The kindergartners were only at their schools for an hour on Thursday morning, to meet with their teachers and go over classroom rules. On Friday, they will return for their first full day —their first day without their parents.
Grover Beach Elementary School Principal James Snyder stopped by Tucker's classroom to briefly supervise recess on Thursday, and said the kindergartners are his favorite part of the new school year.
"It's their first, first day of school," Snyder said. "You get to see their faces, and they're excited and a little bit anxious. This is the best part, these kiddos here."
Tucker felt the same.
"I love the first day," she said. "You see all these names before and have all these names on your mind, and then you get to finally meet them and the parents. But the kids are the best — sorry parents!"
Before Tucker dismissed the students for the day, she gathered them around to read "The Night Before Kindergarten," a picture book by Natasha Wing styled after "The Night Before Christmas."
After describing the fictional students' parents worrying about leaving their children for the day, Tucker flipped to the last page and read in a loud voice: "'The children all waved from the door of the school 'Don't cry mom and dad, kindergarten is cool!' "
And Tucker's students all laughed and glanced at their parents before heading out for recess without a second glance.
Reach Kaytlyn Leslie at 781-7928. Stay updated by following @kaytyleslie on Twitter.