Year begins full of promise (and free lunch)


The start of the school year on Sept. 4 brought a number of big firsts — from universal pre-k to free lunch at every middle school — for public school students in Riverdale and the rest of the city.

The Sheila Mencher School (P.S. 95) on Hillman Avenue invited parents of 18 children participating in the pre-k program to join their students inside. The students’ enthusiasm appeared to be contagious.

“I’m pretty excited,” said Jessica Garcia, the mother of a preschooler at P.S. 95.

“It was easy because she has two siblings here already,” she added in regard to the enrollment process.

Kindergarten was foremost on preschool teacher Rosa Dengler’s mind. She said she and her staff will work hard to get children ready for the next level of their education.

“It’s the best age,” she said of her own students. “They really enjoy being here.”

Outside on Hillman Avenue, excitement reigned as students from both P.S. 95 and the nearby AmPark Neighborhood School greeted familiar faces. 

Best friends Josieemar Marte and Nashley Marte, both 11, had back-to-school jitters as they waited on the sidewalk outside P.S. 95. This year, they will be in different classrooms. 

“I’m really nervous because they changed my class and I’m going to be with different classmates, which means I’m going to have to make new friends,” said Nashley. 

“I have some of the same classmates as last year, but I’m not going to be with her,” Josieemar lamented. 

Meanwhile, 9-year-old AmPark student Ailanni Santana said she was looking forward to meeting her new classmates. 

“I’m nervous, but happy,” said the fourth grader, who kissed her mother Odymar Morel goodbye before heading inside her school. 

“I’m actually feeling emotional because she’s going to fourth grade. Next year, she’ll be in fifth grade. I’m pretty sure I’ll be a hot mess,” Ms. Morel said with a laugh. 

Not far down the sidewalk, P.S. 95 third grader Aiden Sinanovic had a few grievances to air. 

“It’s a full day today. I was expecting half day!” he said. 

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