Holding a glue stick aloft and looking intently into the eyes of her young charges, veteran teacher Robin Duranszyk posed an important question to her 22 brand-new kindergartners on the first day of school Monday morning at Helen Lehman Elementary School in Santa Rosa.

"Do we glue the desk? Do we glue our faces? Do we glue our shoes? No. Where do we put it?" she asked the group sitting "crisscross-applesauce" at her feet.

"On the paper!" they responded.

The first of many lessons learned.

Monday marked the first day of school for more than 20,000 students across Sonoma County, including the county's largest district, Santa Rosa City Schools. Class also started up in Bellevue, Bennett Valley, Mark West, Twin Hills and Wilmar.

It's all hands on deck for the first day of class, said Helen Lehman Principal Bev Jones.

"We enlist reading teachers and aides to help kindergarten on day one," she said. "On the first day, we try to get as many adult bodies as possible. It works out well."

At Cook Middle School, the halls swelled with about 460 students -- about 60 more than predicted.

"It's the Compact for Success and parents are finally saying, 'Our school is safe,' " Principal Patty Turner said in explaining for the Santa Rosa school's growth.

Compact for Success, launched last fall, guarantees a spot at Sonoma State University for Cook Middle School students who graduate from partner Elsie Allen High School with a 3.0 grade point average in college preparatory curriculum and who meet other requirements.

The district chose Cook to pilot the program not only as a segue into Elsie Allen's award-winning University Center program that sends students to SSU to earn up to a year's worth of college credit before they graduate from high school, but also to stem the tide of students choosing not to attend Cook.

The unexpected increase in students Monday is a boon, Turner said.

But for history teacher Charmon Murray, Monday was business as usual as she instructed students on what she expected from them academically and behaviorally this year.

When she raised her hand after the opening bell, a room of 33 eighth-graders fell silent.

"They know that when I put a hand in the air, I mean business," she said. "But you have to be silly, you have to have a light heart."

The return to school also means an uptick in traffic -- as much as a 20 percent increase, said Rob Sprinkle, Santa Rosa's traffic engineer.

At Rincon Valley Middle School this year, the congestion is expected to be particularly acute as the city undertakes a water and sewer line replacement as well as a full rebuilding of Middle Rincon Road between Badger Road and Montecito Boulevard on the western flank of the campus.

Actual work, expected to begin later this month, is set to run four months, but the impact could be extended to accommodate wet, winter months.

"They are going to keep two lanes open," Rincon Valley Middle School Principal Matt Marshall said of Middle Rincon Road. "We anticipate some delays, but that shouldn't be too bad . . . it's going to take patience and understanding on everyone's part."

The effect on the school could not be helped because of the magnitude of the work to be done, said Otto Bertolero, a project engineer.

"It's just in terrible condition. We can't save it by just doing an overlay," he said. "The length of the project would have impacted either the end of the school year or the beginning of the school year, so there is no way to avoid that."

Staff Writer Kerry Benefield writes an education blog at extracredit.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. She can be reached at 526-8671, kerry.benefield@pressdemocrat.com or on Twitter @benefield.