Just after 8 a.m. Wednesday at Harding University Partnership School, new Principal Veronica Binkley was walking the Santa Barbara campus, greeting students and welcoming them back to school.
It was the first day of the year for Binkley and the 400 or so students enrolled this year at the school, located at 1625 Robbins St. on the city's Westside.
"Are you excited?" she called to several children sitting at a picnic table in the school's courtyard, waiting for their classrooms to open up.
They nodded her direction, though some still looked a bit sleepy and were helped along by their parents.
Binkley popped into the sixth-grade classroom of teachers Lindsay Alker and Jennifer Lindsay and introduced herself to the students.
"We're looking to you to be leaders at this school," she told them.
Several doors down, first-grade teacher Jamie Stratford was introducing herself to her students, who sat on a brightly colored rug, eager and attentive, as their parents looked on after dropping them off.
Binkley said Harding's teachers, coupled with the International Baccalaureate curriculum, are the reason for the school's quality of education.
"I would challenge anybody to present me a more internationally-minded, action-oriented program than what's at Harding," she said.
Most of the public K-12 districts started classes this week in southern Santa Barbara County.
At La Patera Elementary School in Goleta, Principal Ricardo Araiza spent the morning excitedly welcoming students and parents. It’s his second year at the campus, located at 555 N. La Patera Lane, and he hopes to develop more relationships between the two groups of families — those who live nearby and those who bus in their students.
The school is trying out a new intervention strategy for struggling students this year, with certificated tutors helping teachers take aside students who fall behind, Araiza said.
Fifth-grade teacher Laura Buratto will spend the first few days having students get to know each other and do some team-building, she said.
Her class can look forward to a curriculum filled with math and science projects, field trips and U.S. history projects, such as transforming explorer reports into board games for classmates to play.
“What’s cool about teaching is you get a new group of kids and families every year — it’s like restarting your battery,” said Buratto, who has been teaching at La Patera for 21 years.
Second-grade teacher Tara Svensson agreed, saying every first day of school is like starting a new job.
“We’re so excited,” she said.
She’s worked at La Patera for her entire 19-year teaching career and said her longevity speaks highly of the school community.