Schools welcome back SCV students  

First-grader Kirrat Sandhu, 6, left, and sister Raavi, 4, wear their "fist-day of school" t-shirts as they attend the first day of school at Bridgeport Elementary School in Valencia on Tuesday, 080823. Dan Watson/the Signal

At promptly 8 a.m. on Tuesday, the gates of Valencia High School opened to welcome the eager students back from their summer break, from nervous freshmen to abundantly confident seniors.  


Parents joined the mix, as well, to give their first-time high school kids a proper sendoff. 


Freshman Damithu Weerakkody, 14, was joined by his mother, Varuni Weerakkody, and they shared feelings of anticipation.  

I’m feeling excited, as well as nervous, and I feel like I have everything that it takes to accomplish what I need. I have the resources,” Weerakkody said.  


While he does not have any particular subject he would want to explore more, Weerakkody looks forward to joining the swim team, given that he is already a swimmer. 


Varuni and the family moved to Santa Clarita because of Valencia’s reputation.  

I’m nervous — this is my first one, and this is [our] first time in high school. We actually moved here because of the school,” Varuni said. 

Varuni is hopeful for a positive school year, not just for Damithu, but also for every student attending Valencia this year. 

“The first day is [so exciting], and I just want all of the kids to be the best,” Varuni said. 

Another freshman, Lucy Johnson, 14, also shared the same nerves: 

I’m pretty nervous. I’m excited about the classes I’m taking but I’m [going to] be really focused this year. I’m very into my studies and my school,” Johnson said. 


While she may have felt antsy, Johnson’s workload is quite ambitious.  


“I’m taking two (advanced placement classes): I’m taking AP environmental science and AP world history; I’m [also] taking honors English,” Johnson said. “I also want to play volleyball. I’m excited.” 

Hanna Tran, 17, is a senior who knows exactly what she would like to focus on this upcoming year. 

“This year I’m [going to] focus on balancing fun and academics. It’s my last year of high school, and we might as well [have fun],” Tran said. “Yesterday was pretty fun, too. We painted our senior parking spots, and got to see everyone again after summer.” 

What did Tran paint? Hello Kitty.  

Reflecting off of the past three years, Tran discussed her favorite Valencia program geared to help students in their professional trajectories.  


“At Valencia, we have something called the Medical Science Academy, and I’ve spent my entire high school career in that. I’ve basically just been studying sports medicine and emergency medicine, and we go on a cool, hosted trip, as well.” Tran said. 

Tran’s friend, senior Lauren Alangui, 17, discussed her goals for the year, including having fun, but being aware of daunting college applications. 

So this year I’m really excited for living out the best year of my life. But I know that the first semester is [going to] be pretty packed with college applications,” Alangui said. 

Not only wanting to invest in themselves, Alangui and Tran have enjoyed a high school career of helping others: 

“I was also in MSA, but [Tran and I are] in Key Club, which has been like a really big part of our lives,” Alangui said. “We’re currently co-presidents, so it’s really fun [getting] to meet new people and then teaching everyone about the value of service.” 

The William S. Hart Union High School District is not the only district to start in the Santa Clarita Valley the past couple of days. The Castaic Union School District started classes on Monday, and the Saugus Union School District welcomed children through its doors Tuesday morning, as well.  

Bridgeport Elementary School expected 850 kids, ranging from first-time students to sixth graders 


Selena Underhill-Berk discussed her first-grade son’s firsts, which include afterschool care and a split class.  

It’s always a little bit stressful coming back because you’re trying to figure out the logistics of things. [Brody] is going from kindergarten to first grade, and this is our first time doing afterschool care. We’re a little nervous, which is why I’m here making sure he gets on the van,” Underhill-Berk said. “He was excited and the new teacher seemed nice. There was good energy here at school today. I had some concerns because he’s in a split class, first and second, but I think it’s actually going to be good for him to be around the second graders. I feel like he‘s ready.” 


While there are things Brody is newly experiencing, he has also grown in other ways: 

“There were no tears for him or me today, which was a departure from last year,” Underhill-Berk said. “We anticipate a little bit of fallout — we know he’s gonna be a little stressed with a new teacher and afterschool program. It’ll [probably] be rough for a few weeks, but we know it’ll get better.” 

While Melissa Andersen was waiting for her fourth-grade son, Riley, to finish his first day, her second-grader, Levi, shared his thoughts regarding his.  

“I was excited.” 

The Andersen family’s main summer activity was moving to Santa Clarita from Torrance. While Levi believes that second grade seems easier than first, he is looking forward to a new year at a new school: “I like this school.” 

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