Pawling Elementary School Rolls Out the Red Carpet for its Newest Arrivals


With backpacks nearly as big as themselves, Pawling Elementary School’s newest pre-k and kindergarten students took their first steps into the world of education this month – and what a busy introduction it was! Between family orientations, summertime activities, opportunities to meet their teachers and classroom plans for a gentle transition, the district maintains a long-standing tradition of extending a reassuring welcome to its youngest students.

Preparations began this past spring with a family orientation and ended with a special “Meet the Teacher” event the day before school started, giving students and their families the opportunity to see classrooms and explore a school bus. Pawling pre-k teachers also prepared to meet their students in front of the school on the first day, guiding students to classrooms and giving parents a chance to say their goodbyes.

The front runner for favorite back-to-school activity this year, however, was the PTA-sponsored “Playtime and Popsicles” afternoon. Held August 30, the rollicking event introduced Pawling’s youngest students to the playground for free play, storytime with their future principal and – of course – cold treats with new friends. They also got a sneak peek at the new pre-k playground, built this summer to offer pint-sized equipment befitting little hands and feet.

Kindergarten parent Anita Sliwa-Ball, who attended Playtime and Popsicles with her son Dylan, praised the district for its efforts to make him feel secure in his new surroundings.

“Everything is so well-planned and thoughtful,” she said. “I’m especially happy with this event. So many children feel anxious going into this new experience and I think this is a great beginning.”

Pawling’s youngest students weren’t the only ones experiencing first-day nerves this September; newly appointed Pawling Elementary School Interim Principal Michelle Rivas shared that she, too, experienced a touch of apprehension for the coming school year. After serving the district for nearly 11 years as assistant principal in both the elementary and middle schools, she admitted that both joy and jitters crept up as the first day approached.

“I jumped for joy when this opportunity was presented to me,” said Rivas. “I thought, ‘Yes! I'm ready!’”

“After a few weeks, though, I began to recognize my strong responsibility to our students, families and teachers and started thinking about my vision,” she continued. “What do I want kids to feel about school? Teachers? The community? That gave me butterflies because I wanted to make sure I got it right.”

The district extended a warm welcome to Rivas as well, hosting a reception on August 9 as an opportunity for elementary schoolers to meet their new principal. Students gathered on the front lawn for cookies, crafts and conversation with their new principal.

After all of this preparation, the big question remains: how is everyone doing in their new surroundings? Pre-k teacher Karina Antonio had some insight about her students’ experience thus far.

“We are off to an excellent and exciting start,” she said. “They are having so much fun engaging in play and exploring their new surroundings together.”

As for Rivas, her response wasn’t far off from that of her fellow newcomers: “I am loving what I do every day. That's the best gift in the world.”