Roughly 7,800 students were back in class Wednesday morning as schools in the Santa Mara Joint Union High School District kicked off their second semester.
A sense of early morning life, largely absent during the three-week gap between classes, returned to South Broadway and Morrison Avenue as 2,500 students at Santa Maria High School rushed to make their 7:30 a.m. class.
Situated on a small, dead-end road, parents scrambled to drop their children at the campus entrance off before the bell. A line of cars had formed as drivers waited for a large, white SUV to turn right onto Broadway during the peak of morning foot and vehicle traffic.
Up the street, groups of students crowded the corners in front of the Santa Maria Inn and a nearby Jack in the Box, waiting patiently for the crosswalk light to beckon them over. Talk of Christmas gifts, vacation and a general disdain of waking up early dominated the conversations.
"If I want to do my hair in the morning, I have to wake up before 6:30 to make sure I have enough time," said Jacqueline, a Santa Maria High School junior, before dashing across the Broadway crosswalk.
A half-awake gaze was plastered on the faces of countless 15- to 18-year-old students as they shambled their way toward the school. A pair of students wandered by a trio of flagpoles facing Broadway, lamenting the loss of their winter sleep schedule.
"The break was nice, yeah, but I'm not looking forward to having to wake up early again," one student said to the other. "I miss being able to sleep in."
Students lingered about campus, waiting for the bell to ring and signal the start of another day of school. Some students talked with friends, catching up after the three-week disruption the break brought, while others buried their faces in their phones. A small circle of kids kicked a hacky sack around, trying not to let it fall to the ground.
"Waking up early isn't too bad when you get to see your friends," a Santa Maria High senior said from behind the school's Morrison Avenue fence. "I can't really complain anymore since this is my last semester."
Within minutes of the 7:30 bell, a quiet fell over the campus and the hustle and bustle had left the intersection. A few stragglers walked in double time to make it to the school entrance; others lingered, slowly migrating toward the doors. School was back in session, whether they wanted it or not.