Parents across Johnson County are bracing themselves for an important milestone: sending a child to kindergarten.
Although the rite of passage may be just a few weeks away, area school districts say the work to prepare students — and their parents — for a smooth transition into school starts long before the doors open later this month.
School districts use kindergarten roundup in the spring, summer school programs, curriculum nights and other school events to introduce parents and students to their school, its teachers and its policies in the spring and summer months before a student ever attends their new school.
This month, the Shawnee Mission School District piloted a three-week summer jump start program in three of its elementary buildings to give incoming kindergarten students a chance to learn about their new school, their teacher and kindergarten curriculum.
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“The intent is to give incoming kindergartners a solid foundation to alleviate any kind of concerns for that first day of kindergarten, to give (them) a little jump start so when they walk in the door the first day of kindergarten they feel more secure about what they can do and what they can expect,” said Alicia Dean, federal programs coordinator for the Shawnee Mission School District.
Students who attended the optional program met for several hours in the morning for three weeks in July to learn early math and reading strategies along with social skills to prepare them for a classroom environment.
“They end the time with confidence and they feel really good about themselves,” Dean said.
The district also offers a kindergarten roundup for families each year and has a designated project preschool liaison at each of its elementary schools who host events for incoming kindergarten students to offer more opportunities for children to get acclimated with their future school.
Kindergarten preparation also begins early in the Olathe School District. Brent Yeager, executive director of general administration and elementary programs, said district elementary schools typically host kindergarten roundup events for incoming students and parents in February.
“It serves two purposes for us: One is of course for us to get a number of who is coming to kindergarten for the next school year, but the other is also for us to have an opportunity to interact with parents and kids themselves,” he said.
Parents get another opportunity to learn more about what their child will be doing once they arrive in kindergarten during the district’s “cruising the kindergarten curriculum” nights. These nights give parents an opportunity to hear from the district’s kindergarten instructional resource teachers about what curriculum will be covered during kindergarten and what parents can do at home to help their child prepare.
Yeager said schools also find other creative ways to ease any student fears by creating personalized books that introduce students to elementary staff members or hosting events where students can read with a principal or specialist.
“Schools in our system really do a good job of helping kindergartners try to recognize some familiar faces and some familiar people and all of those kinds of things once school starts,” he said.
Families in the Blue Valley School District can also attend a family information night and kindergarten roundup at their future elementary school to learn more about the building their child will attend.
Sue Denny, executive director of school administration for Blue Valley, said that during the events the district tries to stress to parents the importance of having a language-rich environment where they hear parents talking and describing the world around them.
“The strongest message that we try to convey is the importance of spending quality time with your young learner as a parent,” she said.
But whether parents are worried about their child’s academic abilities or possible fears about starting school at a new place, all Johnson County school districts said they are happy and prepared to take all students just as they are.
“Our basic message to parents is kids who turn 5 on or before August 31 are kindergarten ready and you send them to us and we’ll take them where they are and take them as far as they can go,” Denny said.