PARKVILLE, Mo. — Monday was the first day of school for students in the Park Hill School District and the faculty at Graden Elementary is welcoming families back for the 88th year.

“We’ve been really working here at Garden on ensuring that our families have a strong sense of belonging when they walk in this door, so starting the first day we have our PTA here, we have music blaring,” principal Vanna Easley said. “And it’s just a way to welcome the families and say you belong here, we’re excited you’re here, and we can’t wait to have a wonderful year.”

The Park Hill district is among the highest paying districts for staff salaries, employee satisfaction, and the top AP scores across the nation.

PTA parent Brittany Conklin was at Monday’s drop-off and said she’s excited for that continued success.

“My hope for the families this year is just that all the kids have a great year of learning and that they just really get to enjoy themselves and have a wonderful year at school,” Conklin said. “Summer break was so much fun, it goes too fast, but we are so excited to be back at Graden and you know we’ve been getting our backpack ready and our first day of school outfit, all pompoms and our signs and we are just pumped up and ready to go.”

The district is implementing a new bell schedule this year to help with the ongoing bus shortage; most schools seeing a 10 to 20 minute change at the beginning of the day, end of the day, or both. Leaders say the new tiered schedule will save the district about 9 to 15 drivers.

Along with the Park Hill district, KCMO and Independence school districts also welcomed back families for the first day of school.