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There's something bittersweet about summer coming to an end. That is, unless you're a parent.

With many local schools starting in August, most parents are gleefully packing up the backpacks and counting down the days until they can drop their precious cherubs off at school and have a quiet house for several blissful hours. Some, though, are ambivalent.

What do they like most — or least — about the start of the school year?

"My favorite day this year is Aug. 22," said Lorna Brown, owner of Santa Rosa's My Gym, choosing her children's first day of school.

Because she owns her business, Brown has hours flexible enough that she doesn't have to worry about fulltime daycare for Morgan, 9, and Callum, 7. That means there is less structure in her house, and Brown has carried the burden of maintaining her kids, her business and any extracurricular activities during the summer.

"I've already planned lunch with another mom friend for the first day of school so we can celebrate surviving summer," she said.

"I'm so excited my kids started school," said Sarah Warner of Rohnert Park. Her son Billy's first day at Evergreen Elementary was July 25, ending her struggle to get him reading or writing in the off-season.

"Better yet," she added, "no more bickering all day with his brother."

Maggie MacNab of Santa Rosa described the sense of exhaustion and relief that comes with the official end of summer. Her biggest frustrations were trying to create activities for her 5-year-old daughter, Jorie, especially with the high cost of summer camps.

"The least expensive camp I found was at her school, but that seemed the least fun to me and a lot like just being in school," MacNab said.

Planning play dates with other families was also frustrating for MacNab and her daughter. Spur-of-the-moment invitations proved to be an impossible feat, as they worked around other families' busy schedules.

"I can totally understand year-round school now," she said. "Two, three weeks vacation at a time just may be enough."

"I cannot wait, and neither can my son," said Claudine Bibeau of Santa Rosa. Since her son, Justin Parks, 11, is one of the first students at the new French American Charter School in Santa Rosa, both are looking forward to the change.

"New school, learning a new language, new skills to learn — we cannot wait for the rhythm of the school year to start again," she said.

A little bonkers

Kristin Meyer of Novato repeated the sentiment. "I'm excited for it to start," she said, "but I'm going a little bonkers with the kiddo here at home."

Her 7-year-old daughter, Kaitlyn, will start second grade in a few weeks after learning how to swim and attending art camp during the break.

Summertime also meant that Kaitlyn, an only child, was a bit lonely. "I think she misses her friends," Kristin Meyer said. "I'm not excited about the homework part, though. It's always a bit of a challenge getting her to buckle down and do it."

But while many parents are anticipating the start of the school year, Sarah Ponsford of Santa Rosa is not excited. She's the mother of Hannah, 15, Summer, 13, and Ella, 7.

"For me, the worst part is that once school starts, every part of our day is scheduled out. The pace is so much more chaotic," she said.

"I dread the rushing. &‘Get in the car quick! Have you finished your algebra? Wrap it up, you have to get to bed at a decent time!' I feel like it never stops until school gets out."

Planning schedule

Ponsford compensates for the busy school year by scheduling as little as possible during the summertime, promoting a more relaxed calendar of events.

"The unscheduled time gives us all a chance to catch our breath," she said. "Once school starts, there will be homework, sports practices, drama classes, etc. All those things have their benefits, but so do a couple of months of not rushing from one thing to the next."

Marianne Felder of Rohnert Park also is ambivalent about the start of school, saying she is nervous for her daughter Paige, 8. Although she spent the summer preparing Paige for school with tutoring and a reading program, she still is worried about how they will face the upcoming challenges of the school year.

"Paige will be starting third grade, and I hear the teacher is very, very strict and tough," Felder said. "It's a tough school with a lot of homework, so I'm scared to see what the school year will bring us."

Feeling conflicted

As a teacher at Evergreen Elementary in Rohnert Park, Erin Scull of Santa Rosa enjoyed taking the summer off to spend with her 2-year-old son, Camden. She said she feels conflicted about saying goodbye to the lazy days of summer.

"Watching my son's experiences and sharing in his daily joys have been incredible," she said. But she also looks forward to meeting her new students and facing a fresh school year.

"New faces, friendships and new learning experiences that help guide me in my life as a professional and help me grow as a human. It is bittersweet," she said. "I am very fortunate to love my job and have a chance to enjoy my family."

Matthew Witthaus, a Santa Rosa dad, said, he is "both dreading and welcoming it." His 10-year-old son, Logan, and 8-year-old son, Tristan, start school next week. He also helps raise his 2-year-old daughter, Madeline.

"When school's in session, there's a clock ticking constantly," Witthaus said. "During the summer there's no solid wake-up time, other than the hour when the kid's club at my gym fills up. I don't need my crowbar and bullhorn to get them out of bed."

Yet none expressed their feelings as eloquently as Sheri Reed, the Santa Rosa mother of Cameron, 15, and Shayna, 12.

"YIPPEEEEEE! ..." she wrote in. "Not that I'm excited or anything."

(Crissi Dillon is the moderator and blogger at SantaRosaMom.com, an online community for parents. You can reach her at cristen.dillon@pressdemocrat.com.)

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