01/19/2009 at 01:00 AM EST
Sure, their dad spent the day trying to save the U.S. economy. But his daughters faced something just as daunting: day one at a brand-new school. Fresh from their 12-day Hawaiian luau and settled in Washington, D.C.'s Hay-Adams hotel—their new digs won't be ready until Jan. 20—Malia Obama, 10, and sister Sasha, 7, got up bright and early Jan. 5 to brush their teeth, stuff their backpacks and set out for the private Sidwell Friends School in the nation's capital. Their pop, Barack, didn't tag along—he had to hawk his economic stimulus package on Capitol Hill—but he did hug and kiss his kids goodbye as they left with mom Michelle at 7:10 a.m. in a six-car motorcade.
Secret Service escorts aside, Malia, a fifth grader, and Sasha, in the second grade, will get no special treatment at the elite Quaker school, where tuition runs about $29,000 per year. "It's actually been quite a normal day," says Sidwell's associate head of school Ellis Turner. "All kids are treated in an identical manner. That's what parents are hoping to find here."