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Tears, hugs and excitement on first day of school across north country

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Wednesday was Noah A. Flores’s first day of kindergarten.

The 5-year-old was pretending a handicapped railing was a jungle gym as he waited for the doors of Ohio Elementary School to open, signaling the start of the school year across Northern New York.

“I’m excited,” said his mother, Carey A. Flores. “I’ve been looking forward to this for years. He’s been asking all summer, ‘When do I go to my new school?’”

As parents walked their children to the building, some had their little ones pose in front of the school mascot — a purple dinosaur — painted on the marquee to commemorate the first few anxious moments.

After Principal Mark L. Taylor came outside for a quick speech, parents of kindergartners funneled into the building to get their children settled into their classrooms. Other parents, however, had to leave their children at the door.

If parents tried to sneak back to their child’s class for one last hug, Mr. Taylor, who is serving his second year as Ohio Elementary’s principal, put them at ease, then shooed them away.

He told one, “Mr. Taylor has to put the hammer down.”

“I tell the parents, ‘We will take care of your kid. Trust us,’” he said. “If parents have concerns, just call the building principal or secretary.”

As children dressed in brand-new “back to school” clothes crossed the threshold into the building, some broke down in tears. Pockets of teary-eyed parents lingered at the door long after their children disappeared down the winding hallways into their new classrooms.

“My hope was that I don’t have a crier, and I didn’t have too many this year,” Mr. Taylor said.

Leilaneah E. Demarco, 6, was probably less nervous to start the first grade than her mother was to let her go. The first-grader was dressed in a bright pink shirt with butterflies and her ponytail was adorned with hair wraps.

“I’m sad,” Gena M. Demarco said. “I’m a little relieved for a break, but sad.”

When Ms. Demarco commented on Leilaneah’s lip gloss, the girl shyly tried to wipe it off on her mother’s shirt. However, about five minutes after her mom gave her a last hug, Leilaneah found a friend.

The chaos and emotion of the first half-hour of the first day of school are special to Mr. Taylor.

“I love kids,” he said. “I love my job. I’m not really nervous, but I’m anxious about getting them here safely and getting them home safely at the end of the day.”

This year, none of his teachers is new to the district, which means they all know how to handle teaching the Common Core after the new standards to align education across the country were introduced to the curriculum last year.

“We have a great staff,” Mr. Taylor said. “They’re very student-centered and really do care what’s best for the students.”

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