Scrubbed faces, new backpacks and big smiles were seen in abundance when junior kindergarten through eighth-grade students arrived Monday for the first day of school at Marymount of Santa Barbara.

Everyone was buzzing with excitement as new students in every grade level joined the much-loved tradition of Opening Circle.

“We are welcoming 51 new students who speak over six languages. It is an exceptionally diverse and engaging group of new families,” said Molly Seguel, admissions director at Marymount.

Returning families admired the summer campus improvements, including the newly renovated kindergarten playground and the updated Lower School sports courts.

The theme for the school year is “Dive In,” and new Head of School Andrew Wooden set an example by “diving in” to his new position with gusto. He has endeared himself to the Marymount community and accomplished multiple campus improvements since his arrival on July 1.

Wooden’s credentials include building a successful middle and high school in New Mexico called the Bosque School, 14 years in admissions at Choate Rosemary Hall in Connecticut and a degree from Yale’s Divinity School.

When touring the classrooms on Monday with his two springer spaniels, Shout and Doodle, an eighth-grade student asked Wooden why he chose Marymount.

“It’s the happiest school I have ever encountered,” he said. “There is something unique and positive about this school that I felt and recognized immediately.”

In a conversation with several parents about the success of recent renovations and positive buzz on campus, Wooden said, “Marymount’s location and history as an old California estate are exceptional. The potential of this campus coupled with an incredible team of teachers dedicated to their students’ academic achievement and moral development set this school apart. The start of school is a fresh beginning, a chance to reach new goals and realize potential. There’s a real reason for all the smiles you see today.”

— Molly Seguel is the director of admissions for Marymount of Santa Barbara.