It looked like a typical first day of school Tuesday at — students a little nervous and a little excited as they found their way to their classrooms.
But it was a day that was months of preparation in the making: the merger of Hillside Elementary's more than 300 students with their Brookfield Elementary peers, following the Elmbrook School Board's decision to close Hillside at the end of the 2011-12 year.
Brookfield Elementary Principal Lynn Raines said the long and detailed transition planning served well.
"We were just thrilled at how smoothly the bus dropoff and parent dropoff went, and the support of families and staff in making the transition," Raines said.
"There were lots and lots of smiles coming off the bus. The kids are excited to be back and so are we," she said.
Tuesday also was a first for Elmbrook Superintendent Mark Hansen: his inaugural first day of school as head of the district. He started as superintendent July 1 as students were in summer break.
After helping get his own children off to school Tuesday, Hansen greeted parents and students at schools, including Brookfield Elementary.
Fifth-grader Meghan Long, 10, said she was "really excited for school," especially now that she's in the top grade in the building.
Her only complaint: the crowded bus on a muggy morning.
"It was hard to breathe!" she said.
Inside the school, teachers helped children ease into their new environments. Fourth-grade teacher Wanda Boggs showed students a collage she made about herself and her family.
One of her anecdotes: she's one of a handful so far in the Packers Fan Hall of Fame. Her students last year helped get her selected as the Green Bay Packers' fan of the year — and the first woman chosen.
Homemade signs helped greet students from both merged schools. Many displayed the theme "Together We are Family," with Hillside's red and Brook El's blue.
Parents from both schools mingled in a casual "Boo-Hoo / Yahoo" gathering inside the school's large group instructional room. Where did the name come from? It was a tribute to parents' conflicting emotions as children return to school.
Susie Goddard's son was among those moving from Hillside to Brook El Tuesday. He's in second grade and his brother Evan is in kindergarten.
Even though William previously rode the bus to Hillside, he was a little nervous about riding to his new school. So his mother agreed to put him on the bus, but drive to Brook El to greet him when he got off.
"It was great," she said. "Everything was totally organized. Everyone told them where to go."
Summer play dates and other transitional events also were a big help, she said as she walked with her other children, Jackson, 3 and Emma, 1.
It was time to head home and wait for the boys to return and tell how it all went.