With her mother and father and little sister still near the bottom, Yasmine Diaby, 5, quickly climbs the stairs to the second floor of Mukilteo School Districts new Pathfinder Kindergarten. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Mukilteo opens first district-wide, all-day kindergarten

EVERETT — Yasmine Diaby hitched up the “Beauty and the Beast” backpack nearly half her height. In her pink sparkly shoes, she marched right up the stairs to a new shiny classroom with her parents and little sister trailing behind.

“I’m excited to play with my friends and do activities,” the 5-year-old said, adding that she was looking forward to “baby playing.”

“And learning,” her mother Nada Semlali reminded her.

Yasmine plopped down at a small table in a brightly lit common area shared by several classrooms on the school’s second floor. The big room was filled with games, easels and even costumes. Students were ushered to pint-sized tables and bins of blocks.

The toys caught Yasmine’s attention as her father, Diaby Aly, snapped a few photographs. There was a round of goodbyes and hugs.

The girl’s parents lingered, not quite ready to let go. They took a few more pictures and encouraged their daughter to introduce herself to the other children.

Yasmine snapped more blocks together. She wasn’t inclined to mingle, for now.

There was another round of hugs, goodbyes and reassuring words before her parents walked down the stairs.

“My heart is beating, beating, beating,” her mom said.

Soon another girl sat down across from Yasmine, taking some blocks out of the bin. The girls compared structures and chatted away like best buddies.

“How old are you?” Yasmine asked.

On Monday, Yasmine was one of about 500 kindergartners who started their first day at the new Pathfinder Kindergarten Center on Beverly Park Road in the Mukilteo School District.

It is the first year that Mukilteo is offering all-day kindergarten district-wide.

It’s also the inaugural year for Pathfinder, a kindergarten-only school with shiny new floors, insect-themed murals, brightly colored chairs and tables, and heated floors for young students, who often learn and play away from their desks.

The center was built to accommodate all-day kindergarten classes, housing about half the district’s youngest pupils. Some elementary schools continue to have kindergarten classes while others no longer do, district spokesman Andy Muntz said.

“This gives us the classrooms to offer all-day programs,” he said.

Many of the students and their parents and guardians met teachers and toured classrooms last week. Summer vacation ended Wednesday for most students. The district, however, gave its kindergartners an extra few days in keeping with a state initiative, known as WaKids, recognizing that young students need to ease into the school year.

Razeena Sadiq and Shafeel Ibrahim met with their daughter Aaliyah’s teacher for about an hour last week. They were grateful for the time.

They live near Lake Stickney Elementary School and expected their daughter to attend school there until the district notified them about Pathfinder. They’re not ready to let her ride the bus so they’ll ferry her to and from school for now.

Aaliyah, 5, attended preschool so she wasn’t too nervous about starting kindergarten, her mom said.

“She’s excited about going to a bigger school. She’s excited about new friends. She’s excited about science,” Sadiq said.

The parents hung back, watching as Aaliyah was given a brown bag breakfast before lining up outside her new classroom. Sadiq took a step toward the stairs but Ibrahim stalled until he spotted his daughter in the classroom. The red flower in her hair bobbed up and down as she entered on tiptoes.

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; hefley@heraldnet.com.

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