Colorado Gov. Jared Polis surprised hundreds of Park Elementary School students by welcoming them back to school Tuesday morning and personally wishing some good luck on their studies.
Third graders Ashtyn Claps, 8, and Abigail Phelps, 8, seemed stunned after shaking hands with Polis on the field outside the school.
“I was told I was going to see the governor, I really freaked. ... I was just confused about why he’s coming to Park because it is a small school,” Abigail said.
After Polis wandered through the chaos of students gathering for class, Principal Marie Voss-Patterson introduced the governor to a crowd of students, parents and staff members, likening his position to “the head or principal of all Colorado.”
“I am proud on behalf of the state of Colorado to welcome you back to school,” Polis said.
Just like any good principal, Polis made funding for education a priority in his first year by supporting funding for full-day kindergarten across the state.
Durango School District 9-R received $1.1 million for full-day kindergarten this year, which allowed the district to increase funding for staff salaries, said Superintendent Dan Snowberger.
Voss-Patterson said fair pay for teachers is particularly important because fewer and fewer college students are majoring in education.
“It gives the message that teaching is a profession that is worthwhile,” she said.
Polis didn’t spend long explaining the recently approved funding for education, focusing instead on his anxious and fidgety audience.
“You are going to have an amazing year. You are going to learn a lot. ... You are going to learn to be good people,” he said.
However, the governor’s appearance didn’t wash away first-day nerves for some students caught up in the emotions of the moment.
Wylie Myrick, 6, was among those who shed a few tears.
Wylie’s mom, Danielle Murray, said her son tends to get emotional in new situations, but once he is settled in the classroom, he loves his classmates and activities that allow him to be creative.
“He has a great time and he doesn’t want to leave,” she said.
[email protected]This story was updated to correct the spelling of Ashtyn Claps.