Another school season starts at AME

Anna Maria Elementary Lauren Sato
Lauren Sato hugs her son, Dylan, as he leaves for his first day of kindergarten. - Tom Vaught | Sun

HOLMES BEACH – Motorists got a bright reminder that another school year had begun Monday morning from emergency lights on a patrol car and Police Chief Bill Tokajer’s vehicle in front of Anna Maria Elementary School. As a bus pulled up, Tokajer greeted the kids as they stepped off. Inside, AME School Resource Officer Josh Fleischer was watching the parents and their children. With the advent of new security steps, visitors to the school won’t be admitted without some identification, and they will be required to wear a visitor’s pass as long as they are inside the school.

Anna Maria Elementary back to school
Parents and kids wait to get into the school Monday morning. – Tom Vaught | Sun

For now, all doors are locked and those who want in will have to use a call box on the entryway wall. A staffer will then come to the door and let the visitor in.

“We’re getting a buzzer soon, so they can let the visitor in without having to go to the door,” said AME Principal Jackie Featherston.

Lauren Sato and her husband, Jason, dropped off their son, Dylan, in the crowded hallway.

“He’s a little worried, but he’ll be okay,” she said. This year, the parents of kindergartners dropped their children off at their classrooms and there were some tears on the parents’ cheeks and worried looks on the kids’ faces, but everybody was greeted by the teachers and many of the parents headed for the auditorium to attend an AME tradition: the “Boo hoo Breakfast.”

ame Karaline Berzowski
Karaline Berzowski wears a bright belt as she helps with parent drop off and pick up. – Tom Vaught | Sun

One concern is the presence of red tide in the Gulf of Mexico three blocks away and possibly in the bay. Will they keep students inside?

“If we can smell it, we’ll limit their outside access,” said Featherston. “The students will have gym in the auditorium.”

There was no smell Monday and no dead fish were visible in the bay behind the elementary school.