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Allaka's big day

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By Shannon Brock

A little girl sat at the table in her kindergarten classroom for the first time. Her arms were crossed, her face was red and her cheeks glistened with tears.

This little girl missed her parents. This little girl would have preferred to be playing at home in the sunshine or tucked away safely in her bed. This little girl did not want to be at kindergarten.

But this little girl was not Allaka Lewis.

Allaka, 5, sat two tables over with a smile on her face and a crayon in her hand. But in the middle of coloring a picture, Allaka lost her smile for just a second.

She recognized the little girl two tables down with a tear rolling down her face. She was a friend from preschool. After conferring with her father, Bart, who hadn't yet left the classroom, the smile returned to Allaka's face as she decided it would be a good idea to try to make her friend feel better.

Instead of being sad summer had come to an end, Allaka was happy to be going back to school, and she wanted to try to spread some of that cheer.

She left the little girl looking a little more comforted and happily returned to coloring her first kindergarten assignment.

Allaka went to preschool last year, but that was only half a day. This year was different. This year she would go the whole day like her brother, Dalton, a fourth-grader, and her sister McKenna, a sixth-grader. This year she started "big school."

Wake up call

When her mother, Meredith, switched on the light at 6:30 a.m., she tossed and turned a time or two, then hid her head under the covers in hopes of going back to sleep. But within a few minutes, she popped up on the side of the bed, bright-eyed and smiling. Allaka was excited about her first day of kindergarten.

With her mother's assistance, she quickly got dressed and made her bed. Meredith, who is the music teacher at Saffell Street Elementary School, pulled the sides of Allaka's hair back and topped off her kindergarten look with a pretty pink bow.

After brushing her teeth, Allaka hopped downstairs ready to showcase her school shoes and her pink, green and blue backpack. After a sip of milk, she was ready to go.

But her father wasn't quite ready yet.

So, Allaka sat patiently in the living room.

Allaka met her teacher, Jill Rock, at the Early Childhood Center's open house a few days earlier, but on the morning of Aug. 6, she couldn't wait to get back to the classroom full of "computers, play stuff for little kids, drawing stuff, chairs with our names on them and a drawing board for the teacher to write on."

"School is perfect, and it's fun," Allaka said moments before leaving for ECC.

Last year in preschool, Allaka enjoyed making pictures for her family and collars for her dogs, but the thing she said she was most excited about this year, in kindergarten, is learning how to read. She's not sure what topics she'll want to read about - she hasn't thought that far into it - but she knows she will learn to read, and she can't wait.

A better start than ending

Allaka's parents hoped kindergarten would begin better than preschool ended.

On the second to last day of school, Allaka fell on the playground and busted her mouth open. The injuries required oral surgery and Allaka lost three of her baby teeth.

"She didn't really get to have a last day of school," Meredith said, adding that she and Allaka went in on the last day to say goodbye to her classmates and teachers, but that was about all Allaka felt like doing.

However, if Allaka's attitude Wednesday morning was any indication, the rest of her first day of kindergarten would be just fine.

After feeding the family cats, Garfield and Matches, Allaka grabbed her backpack, hugged her mother and siblings, and headed off to school with her father.

When they arrived at ECC, Allaka stopped to pose for a few mom-mandated pictures outside and then got in the breakfast line. After munching on some sausage and pancakes, Allaka and her dad headed upstairs to the classroom.

She quickly settled in and began coloring and making small talk with the other three children at her table. They seemed to get along and were thrilled at the fact that they all lived in Lawrenceburg.

With a quick hug, Bart was able to slip off to work. Allaka finished her picture and was among the first students called on for good behavior to choose a spot on the rug.

The rest of the day seemed to go without too many moments of panic. Well, that was until the bus came.

End-of-the-day mayhem

Meredith Lewis sat in her classroom at Saffell waiting for the mayhem that is dismissal on the first day of school. In a few minutes, the bell would signal the end of the day at Saffell, and the buses would come. Allaka, and a few of her kindergarten friends whose parents also taught at Saffell, would be getting off bus 18 just before the Saffell students got on.

"If the rest of the day went as smoothly as this morning, she'll come bounding off that bus," Meredith said.

Meredith was anxious to know how Allaka's day went. She'd decided to take McKenna to her first day of middle school and let Bart escort Allaka to ECC.

"It's good that Bart took (Allaka)," Meredith said. "If I had, it could have been bad. She tends to get more emotional (with me)."

Soon enough, and without too much chaos, the students at Saffell whose parents picked them up were safely on their way home, and Meredith and the other Saffell parents waited for the arrival of bus 18. But when bus 18 came and opened its yellow door, no one got off.

The good news was that wherever the children were, they were together. The bad news was no one knew where they were right away.

Just as Saffell Principal Derek Shouse had phoned ECC Principal Melissa Lentz, someone noticed a few little bodies bouncing up the sidewalk. In a slight change of plans, the children rode bus 44 instead of 18, but they all got to Saffell safe and sound.

'I've been good'

Back inside the school, Allaka told her mom that her first day of kindergarten was chock full of activities. She was especially animated about playing the marshmallow game. According to Allaka, the students were supposed to tell the class three things about themselves and then eat a marshmallow.

"I said that my name was Allaka, I liked blue and I had two cats," Allaka said.

She didn't quite learn to read on the first day of kindergarten - these things take time - but Mrs. Rock did read the class a book. And Allaka got to play outside and make new friends, even one who had pigtails she could tie in a knot, she said.

Allaka told her mom about some of the children who didn't behave all that well, but as a smile spread across her face, she quickly interjected, "I've been good."

At the end of the day, Allaka said she still liked school and thought it was fun, which is a good thing because she had to wake up and do it all over again the next day.