The Welcome Wagon traveled around Castaic Wednesday morning to deliver popsicles, reusable water bottles and Castaic Education Foundation shirts alongside a friendly reminder to Castaic Union School District families that school starts next week.
Jacque Marquez brought her 9-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son to the Welcome Wagon – a yellow school bus – when it made its second stop of the morning across the street from Los Angeles County Fire Station 149 near Castaic Lake.
“I’m happy that things are starting to lift a little bit,” Marquez said of pandemic restrictions, while acknowledging the growing number of COVID-19 cases. “Last year was definitely very challenging trying to keep the kids from playing with each other and touching each other.”
She said not requiring kids to wear masks when they’re outdoors is “a big thing.”
“It was really hard for kids playing and then trying to breathe in their masks,” Marquez said as her kids enjoyed their popsicles.
Nearby, district parent Rich Gerringer and his two kids enjoyed the shade of a tree next to the Welcome Wagon.
“I’m really looking forward to him being in-person assuming it’s safe,” he said. “The COVID Delta variant is still a concern, but looking at it last year it seems like the kids were pretty good about keeping their masks on.”
Gerringer’s 6-year-old son was in kindergarten last year.
“Now that he’s in first grade I really felt that in-person schooling is needed, especially the socialization, so I’m hoping everything goes well,” he said.
Travelling on the bus, Stephen Doyle, the district’s superintendent, was handing out popsicles in the heat of the early morning. He said the Welcome Wagon raises awareness that the first day of school is around the corner.
“We’re excited to have them back,” he said, noting that students returned to in-person learning last spring.
Lisa Loscos, the new principal of North Lake Hills Elementary School, was also on the bus. She met with some of her students for the first time that morning.
“It’s such a great opportunity to meet the families to show how excited we are to have students return to campus,” she said.
Bus driver Elena Casey said she was excited to be chosen to drive the Welcome Wagon.
“We have a really great relationship with the children, because we’re steady bus drivers for those routes,” said Casey, an 11-year bus driver for the district. “They’re really excited to see us again.”
School board member Laura Pearson said the Welcome Wagon shows families that the district is about a “family, warm feeling.”
“I’ve heard a little bit of ‘scared to go back’ (and) ‘used to being at home,’ so we want them to know that we’re looking forward to them coming back and we’re going to do our best to keep them safe,” she said.
The Castaic Education Foundation sponsored the bus tour, which included foundation treasurer Sherrye Winslow.
“We’re just trying to get out there that we’re here to help the schools with raising some funds so that we can give back,” she said.
The Welcome Wagon will also make two pit stops Friday at Val Verde Community Regional Park at
1:10 p.m. and Hasley Canyon Park at 1:40 p.m. The first day of school for Castaic district students is Tuesday, Aug. 10.