Standing on the Santa Maria-Bonita School District campus named for his great-great-great-grandfather, Luke Ontiveros seemed more like a traffic cop than superintendent as he directed students and parents where to go.
Tuesday morning marked the first day of school for the district’s approximately 17,000 preschool to eight-grade students — and its new superintendent.
“Happy new year,” Ontiveros frequently said to students, parents and staff at Juan Pacifico Ontiveros Elementary School.
He started July 1 and spent the morning of his first day of school at campus in northwest Santa Maria.
“I was just like the kids. I was up early. I picked out my clothes last night,” he said. “I did the same thing all the kids do on the first day.”
The kids were lined up when he arrived Tuesday morning, he said.
“The kids are all so excited. The first day of school, whether you’re a student or a parent or work in the school is always an exciting time,” he said. “It’s the start of something new.”
Since the last school year ended, the facilities staff was busy completing normal chores in addition to installing 26 portable classrooms at many of the district’s 20 campuses, including three at Ontiveros.
“Our facilities guys did a great job prepping for the new year,” Ontiveros said, adding that the staff members squeezed in a great deal of work in a short time.
“It’s pretty phenomenal,” he added.
Later, he stood nearby as Principal Rebecca Herrick delivered the first morning announcements to the campus’s approximately 1,000 students of the new school year, exchanging high-fives after she completed them.
Called to the principal’s office on the first day of school, sixth-graders Natalie Barton and Sophia Valdez were nervous.
“I thought we were in trouble,” Natalie said, after being told they were summoned to speak to media.
“This was like the least expected thing of what’s going to happen,” she added.
Both girls were excited to be back at school, where Natalie’s mom, dad and aunt are teachers.
“I was getting bored of just doing nothing,” Natalie said. “It was just too much of a long summer. It was pretty long.”
Also on campus for the start of the 2016-2017 school year was retired teacher and current school board member Vedamarie Alvarez-Flores.
On Tuesday, she was there as grandmother of a fourth-grader and first-grader — in addition to Ontiveros school cheerleader.
“Once a Condor, always a Condor,” she said. “That’s our saying.”
— Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.