Snow cones were just one of the items on the menu of fun at Castle Hills' back-to-school celebration Wednesday.

Castle Hills welcomes families back with BBQ, haircuts

Jarek Rutz Headlines, Education

Snow cones were just one of the items on the menu of fun at Castle Hills' back-to-school celebration Wednesday.

Snow cones were just one of the items on the menu of fun at Castle Hills’ back-to-school celebration Wednesday.

Jennifer Reeve’s son starts kindergarten on Monday, and she said it’s important for her to feel comfortable with the environment she’s dropping him off at. 

So they attended the Wednesday evening open house barbecue at Castle Hills Elementary. 

“He’s entering public school for the very first time,” she said. “He was able to meet his teachers and being able to recognize their faces just makes him feel more comfortable on the first day.”

Her son said he was there for the snacks. 

“Anywhere there’s snacks, he’ll be there,” Reeve said. “It’s really nice that they incorporated that and made it feel like a family right off the bat with the school, parents, students and teachers. It just makes me feel excited, and while he knows summer’s ending, he knows there’s something else to look forward to.”

A fresh haircut, barbecue and snow cones were all part of the back-to-school celebration for Castle Hills Elementary students heading into the 2023-24 school year.

A Castle Hills' student getting a free, fresh cut before returning to school next week.

A Castle Hills’ student getting a free, fresh cut before returning to school next week.

The Colonial School District elementary is in New Castle.

Brandon Repella, who has two daughters entering the second and fourth grade, said attending the open house helps calm his nerves about sending his children back to the classroom. 

More importantly, it eases his daughters’ anxiety, too. 

“It’s really important to see the teachers before the first day and also for teachers to get to see the kids,” he said. “My girls get to shake off the nerves by putting a face to the name.”

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The fun atmosphere is unique, he said. It builds a connection more than a traditional open house where students and parents just meet the teacher in the classroom and then go home.

He said it allows his daughters to say “Okay, this is my teacher. She just encouraged me and she made me laugh during this fun night out. It seems like it’s gonna be a good school year.”

Families toured the school and the classrooms of their children while mingling with their teacher.

Outside, about 100 people were gathered in the parking lot.

Free cuts at Castle Hills

Through a partnership with Paul Mitchell The School, a beauty school in Newark, the Reading Dragons of Castle Hills were able to get free back-to-school haircuts.

The school’s cosmetology students benefited, too, by fulfilling required community service hours.

Families were able to tour their child's school and classroom.

Families were able to tour their child’s school and classroom.

Monique Lusby, a student at Paul Mitchell, said her and her team of hairdressers were delighted to attend because they want to give back to the community and kids.

“With COVID, our school wasn’t able to come out and do these community events,” Lusby said, “so it’s great to be out here and see all the young faces and get them ready for a fresh start to the new year, looking good and feeling good.”

After a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic, Castle Hills is back to holding open house festivals.

It’s not just the families that enjoy the night.

Drew Webster, fifth-grade teacher at the school, said teachers really value the annual festival and are happy it’s back.

Forging a relationship with a student and their family, even prior to the first day of school, helps build trust and enforce that all parties have the common goal of helping the child succeed. 

“It’s always fun because everybody’s together and the more interaction with the parents, the better,” he said. “I really enjoy this but more importantly, I know the kids love it.”

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