Tears, kisses and hugs come out early as school starts in University Place, Lakewood, Carbonado

Walking to the front door of University Place Primary School, 5-year-old Ali Jordan proudly exclaimed: “This is my first day of school!”

But after finding her kindergarten classroom, Ali wasn’t so effervescent. As mom Laura Jordan and 3-year-old sister Lily prepared to leave, the tears started to fall — and not just for the new student.

“This is my first (child) going to school,” Jordan said. Last year, Ali attended preschool for just a few hours a day.

Lucky for the family, grandma Estel Jacobson is a para-educator at UP Primary. As Mom was leaving and joking how she had to keep her emotions in check, Grandma caught up to tell her Ali was already playing in the classroom, her tears long forgotten.

The scene of parents and children parting ways played out across University Place on Wednesday for the first day of school. The only other local districts to start Wednesday were Clover Park in neighboring Lakewood and Carbonado in rural East Pierce County. Between the three districts, nearly 18,000 students were back in class Wednesday.

The Steilacoom Historical School District starts Thursday (Aug. 28). All other Pierce County districts start after Labor Day.

University Place wanted to start and end the school year early to avoid the 2015 U.S. Open golf championship at Chambers Bay golf course, which starts June 15. School is set to let out for the year on June 11.

School district officials didn’t like the idea of school buses and children competing for road space with the estimated 235,000 people expected to visit the golf course over the weeklong sporting event, district superintendent Patti Banks said.

The United States Golf Association has also asked to use some of the district’s parking for the U.S. Open. Details about which schools and how many spaces are still being worked out, said Jeff Chamberlin, district deputy superintendent.

While the district received some complaints about the early start, Banks said that’s typical no matter when the school year gets going.

“There are always a few people whose family vacation plans don’t coincide with the start of school,” she said.

Parents walking their children to school Wednesday said they didn’t mind starting earlier.

“We get to go to the U.S. Open without any issues,” joked Scott Ruffner. He later said the family planned to avoid Grandview Drive, the main road leading to the golf course, during the tournament.

Ruffner and wife Janice were walking Jack, 8, and Grace, 6, to class — a first-day tradition for the family. The siblings were excited for school to start — Grace most for recess, Jack for math class.

Not too far up the road, eighth- and ninth-graders at Curtis Junior High were settling in for first period. About 100 ninth-graders selected as ambassadors briefed the incoming class of roughly 500 eighth graders about the culture of the school.

One ambassador, Dayton Thomas, 15, said he’s not usually excited to come back to school but because he “really liked this school last year” he was ready this year. There’s one thing he’s not looking forward to, though.

“I’m not really excited for homework,” Dayton said. “I’m excited for everything else, but not the homework.”