‘It’s more emotional for us’ — kindergarten parents on 1st day of school in Stafford County

parents first day
John and Najae take video as their daughter enters Widewater Elementary School, in Stafford, Virginia, for her first day of kindergarten. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)

The first day of kindergarten brings a jumble of emotions for parents in any year. In 2021, all the feels are intensified.

Monday, John and Najae took smartphone video as their daughter was escorted into the fancily decorated Widewater Elementary School, in Stafford, Virginia.

“We’re dropping off our little girl for the first day of kindergarten,” said John, “feeling the first-day jitters, placing the care of our little girl in someone else’s hands.”

Najae may have had some tears in her eyes.

“All the staff, they just wanted to ensure we were comfortable,” she said after watching an attentive and doting teacher walk her daughter into the building. “It’s more emotional for us, honestly, than it is for her — the baby girl’s like ‘Bye,’ and we’re like ‘No, don’t leave.'”

In Stafford County schools, masks will be required for staff and children, vaccinated or not, inside schools, except during lunch, recess and gym classes — at least for the first month of school — to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“It wasn’t that difficult to tell her, ‘Baby, you’ve got to wear a mask when you go to school,'” John said. “There was no pushback whatsoever — she knows it’s something that we do to not only protect ourselves, but the people around us.”

Even though the current school year brings uncertainty about what steps will need to be taken to ensure safety, the family enjoyed some traditions — like preparing clothes for the first day of school.

“We did some school shopping this past weekend. She picked out a dress all by herself — we helped her find the right size, and she’s more than happy to be wearing it,” John said.

While the continued threat of the coronavirus means their daughter’s first year in public school will include the need to take public health safety measures, they believe she’ll be gaining other life skills.

“Adaptability,” said Najae.

“For sure,” agrees John. “We didn’t live through a pandemic in our early school years, but she has such a will to learn that she’s just excited to be here.”

Both parents were thankful for how Principal Karen Bingham and others at Widewater Elementary have been prioritizing safety.

“The school and the staff has been great, in making not only us parents feel comfortable, but the kids feel comfortable as well,” said John.

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Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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