Story and photos by Andrea Sutherland
Kristen Culley raced in and out of her house Aug. 11 as her daughter, Morgan, skipped around the yard, pink kitten backpack on her shoulders. Dressed in her new Hello Kitty outfit, Morgan played with her younger brothers, her brown curls bouncing with each step.
“We put her hair up in curlers last night,” said Culley, a spouse of a Fort Carson Soldier. She said she made the effort for the first day of school, but would not make it an everyday habit.
Morgan, 8, was one of hundreds of children starting school at Patriot Elementary School, a District Eight school on Fort Carson.
“I like reading,” she said, adding that she expected to learn mathematics, spelling and English in her third grade classes.
Across the street, Shawna Garcia ushered her six children out the front door.
“My husband called this morning from Afghanistan,” Garcia said. “He called to wish the kids a good first day.”
Garcia said that while she appreciated her husband’s gesture, she had to cut the conversation short in order to get her children ready.
The Culley clan joined Garcia’s brood and other neighborhood children for the walk to school. Along the way, mothers corralled children for pictures, made adjustments to clothing and hairstyles and gave last-minute advice.
“I love you, be good and don’t talk to any boys,” Garcia told her two older daughters before the pair left for Carson Middle School.
Kindergartners attending District Eight schools lined up for the buses Monday morning for their first day.
“I’m happy and excited, but a little nervous,” said Michelle Brown, watching her eldest son, Joshua, line up for the bus. “I know he’ll do good.”Joshua said he was excited to learn to read and make new friends as he boarded the bus with the “Blue Elephant” picture for Mountainside Elementary School.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 James Raby filmed his son, Jonathan, boarding the school bus.
“I’m video recording everything,” said Raby, whose wife, Staff. Sgt. Jaime Castillo-Raby, is deployed with 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, in Afghanistan. “He’s an only child so for her, it’s a lot more emotional. She wanted to be here.”
For the Soldiers in the rear detachment of 3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd BCT, 4th Inf. Div., the beginning of the school year meant the start of their Adopt-A-School volunteering with Lorraine Secondary School in Fountain.
“It’s important for units to get actively involved,” said
Capt. Adam Salazar, 3rd Bn., 16th FA Reg. “(Adopt-a-School) puts our guys into a mentorship role.”
Salazar said the relationship is mutually beneficial as students become pen pals with deployed Soldiers.
“This is a great partnering opportunity for Fort Carson and surrounding communities,” said Col. John Keenan, deputy garrison commander, speaking to several unit representatives at an Adopt-A-School open house Aug. 9.
“This is really a unique opportunity,” said Brig. Gen. James H. Doty, acting senior commander, 4th Infantry Division and
Fort Carson. “There is nothing more important than our children.”
With so many children on post returning to school, Fort Carson officials have taken care to ensure everyone’s safety.
“The biggest thing as the kids go back to school is to watch out,” said Sgt. 1st Class Michael Musick, provost sergeant, Provost Marshal Office. “For the kids, it’s still new to them so they’re excited and not watching as closely as they will be in a couple weeks. For people driving on post, watch out and slow down whenever you see the kids.”
Elementary schools on Fort Carson begin at 7:30 a.m. and release at 2:25 p.m. Carson Middle School begins at 7:40 a.m. and ends at 3 p.m.
As hordes of children and parents converged on Patriot Elementary School, Vickey Langston took her post at a crosswalk, stopping traffic to let students cross safely.
“This is my first time (at Patriot),” said Langston, a “para-professional” who assists children with disabilities. “I’d been the crossing guard at Abrams (Elementary School) for years.”