A new school year always means new beginnings, but one Denver middle school community took that more literally than most.

Sixth-grade reading teacher Lindsay Agbalokwu was expecting her second baby in early September, but when she woke up with mild contractions Tuesday, she wasn’t sure if she was really in labor. She went to work anyway at DSST: Conservatory Green, a charter school in northeast Denver.

But by the time the school’s morning assembly had wrapped up, it was clear that Agbalokwu wouldn’t be finishing out the day. Seventh-grade teacher Marissa Kast rushed to get her car, as Principal Natalie Lewis and Dean Chris Earls helped Agbalokwu down the stairs and out of the building.

And as Kast pulled up in her car, it was clear that everything was happening too fast for a ride to the hospital. Kast spread out a sleeping bag on the sidewalk’s hard concrete, and with support from a dispatcher on the other end of the line, Lewis and Earls prepared to help Agbalokwu deliver her baby.

Firefighters showed up just in time, and Lewis, who has delivered two children of her own, and Earls, a father of four, moved to support roles.

“I was just telling her you’re going to be OK, women have been doing this forever, giving her reassurance, telling her to breathe,” Lewis said. The birth unfolded in “textbook” fashion from a natural birth class that Lewis had taken years ago.

PHOTO: Courtesy DSST
Baby Zara/Courtesy: Marissa Kast

When the baby was born — an 8-pound, 6-ounce baby girl named Zara — there was a short pause, as there often is, before she drew breath. The adults all held their own breath, Lewis said, as one of the firefighters cleaned the baby girl’s face, prompting a cry.

“Everyone had tears running down their faces,” Lewis said. “It was so beautiful.”

Mercifully, no windows face out on that part of the campus, and students inside were oblivious to the drama unfolding outside.

Kast took photos for Agbalokwu’s husband, who had wanted to be at the birth, and accompanied mother and baby to the hospital to get checked out.

They are now resting at home. Both are doing well. Zara joins big brother Zeke.

Agbalokwu expects to return to the classroom in December, and teachers have set up a meal train to support her through her maternity leave.

For Lewis, the birth seems like a good sign.

“This is my first year as a principal, and I feel like it’s a sign of blessing and abundance to come,” she said.

Correction: This story has been changed to reflect that Zara is Lindsay Agbalokwu’s second child and to add information about Marissa Kast’s role.