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Not As Many Tears On First Day Of Pre-K In River Oaks

There were tears and laughter at A. V. Cato Elementary School in River Oaks Monday, when parents of 4-year-olds took their kids to pre-Kindergarten.  

Before Edgar Sanchez Jr. parted from his parents, he was all smiles inside the colorful classroom, even giving a thumbs-up to show off his excitement. But as soon as his parents walked away, the little guy couldn’t let go, and neither could mommy and daddy, both filled with tears.   

“I thought I was ready, but no!" said his mom, Yvette.

His dad, Edgar, said: "I feel happy for him, but I mean, he’s my first one, I mean, I don’t know how I feel.”

An assistant teacher took little Edgar, in his bright green shirt and snazzy shorts, to the water fountain. Yvette and Edgar Sanchez had no choice but to escape into the hallway.

Jennifer Arkfeld is one of two pre-K teachers at A.V. Cato, part of the Castleberry Independent School District. Her morning class was a little easier.

“We had very few tears,” Arkfeld said. “They came in, and they sat down. They were really excited ... and a lot of them, they were comfortable, but about 10 minutes later once they realized that their moms and dads weren’t coming back, they come up to me, and they were like, 'Oh, I wanna go with my mom.'”

To comfort the kids, there’s a photo schedule, showing lessons at each hour, including a picture of a school bus, symbolizing when they’ll see their parents again. Plus, there’s singing.

“Beep, beep, beep -- the horn on the bus goes beep beep beep, all around town," they sang.

Superintendent Gary Jones says he wishes he had more pre-K classes available.

“We can’t offer enough of them,” Jones said. “We could offer even more classes if I had even more room.”

Nearby, in the Fort Worth Independent School district, universal pre-K was approved in the latest bond package, creating new seats and classrooms for an additional 4,000 4-year-olds next fall.

Doualy Xaykaothao is a newscaster and reporter for NPR, based in Culver City. She returned to NPR for this role in 2018, and is responsible for writing, producing, and delivering national newscasts. She also reports on breaking news stories for NPR.