Archive for Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Kindergarten Jitters

Schools plan for parent orientation nights to calm nerves

February 15, 2006

Going to kindergarten can be intimidating for 5-year-olds, but school administrators know it can also be difficult for their parents.

Each year, most schools have an introductory night for parents to familiarize them with the school and explain paperwork. Many schools use the introductory night to get an idea of how many students will be attending their building next year.

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Dr. Mike Wilhoit, principal at Benninghoven Elementary School, said most Shawnee Mission schools are also having a "sneak peek" so that parents can learn about the school.

"That's for parents of pre-kindergarten students to come and check out what we do here," he said. "It allows us to begin listening to parent requests, such as if they want morning or evening programs."

Benninghoven has one more "sneak peek" date left at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 28. Students will have another date set for them to come and tour the school and meet other new kindergartners.

When parents come to a kindergarten round-up or information night, they should bring immunization records, birth certificate or Social Security card, proof of residence and any contact information they would like the school to have. The school will let parents know when to officially enroll their child and any other information that is needed.

Next year, the Shawnee Mission School District is having a full-day kindergarten pilot program at Ray Marsh Elementary School. It will be housed in the new building next to the current Marsh school. Merriam Elementary will continue to offer all-day kindergarten to all students as a Title I school.

Shawnee parents who aren't sure which school their child should attend can check the Web sites of each district. Shawnee Mission schools have a search-by-address site at www4.smsd.org/locator in which parents can type in their address to find the correct school. The De Soto district at www.usd232.org also has district maps on its web site.

Alvie Cater, director of communications for De Soto schools, said parents who weren't sure if they lived within a particular boundary could also call the nearest school directly. Cater said parent information nights were especially important in the De Soto district with rapid growth in enrollment numbers. This year, the district is projecting 513 new kindergarten students.

"But that's a very conservative number," Cater said. "Based on past years, we could have much more."

The district is projecting 110 new kindergartners at Mize, 115 at Clear Creek, 95 at Prairie Ridge and 106 at Riverview. The numbers are often based on the number of new building permits and birth records in the area, so sometimes when new families move to the area the school isn't aware if there are school-age children at home. Once the parents have contacted the school, most schools will send them information on what they need to do to get their kindergartner ready for school.

DeeAnna Bray, secretary at Merriam Elementary, said students are often nervous when they visit school for the first time, so Merriam typically has fun activities for pre-kindergartners while their parents fill out forms in the school library.

"The kids are sometimes a little intimidated and cling to parents, but almost all of them are willing to go and do crafts and games," she said.

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