Danedri Thompson
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Members of the class of 2024 and their parents will have their first initiation into the Gardner Edgerton and Spring Hill School Districts in the near future.
Although members of the class of 2011 are barely into their final semester of school, education officials will soon greet students who will enter kindergarten next year.
Elementary schools in both districts host Kindergarten Round Ups designed to give parents and their students a sneak peak of what it’s like to be a kindergartner.
“It’s a way for students to have a best first exposure to school,” Spring Hill Elementary School Principal Michelle Toon, said.
Toon said kindergarten teachers dress in western wear and plan fun activities to introduce students to the classroom experience. There are certain education philosophies about what students should know when they enter kindergarten, but there won’t be any testing at SHES’ Round Up.
“We have the philosophy that we’re going to take them how we get them and get them where they need to be,” she said.
During the roundup, kindergarten teachers meet with students while elementary school principals prep parents. Toon said at her school the parent presentation includes fun games parents can play with their pre-kindergarten children to ready them for school.
For example, she suggests a rhyming game while traveling in the car.
“Rhyming is such a foundational skill in reading,” she explained. “Just as they’re traveling in the car, say, ‘I see a cat. Can you think of a word that rhymes with cat?’”
Or she said a good way to get kids to start recognizing letters is to paste letter on the wall in kids’ bedrooms. When the lights are out for bedtime, parents can use a flashlight to spotlight the different letters and ask the child to identify it.
But, Toon said, what skills the students already possess are secondary. Christi Whitter, Madison Elementary School Principal in Gardner said the round up event is really about introducing the students to school rather than finding out if the students are ready.
“At least here at Madison, our parents come in and they receive information about how to enroll their child. And things they can expect when they come to school,” Whitter said.
Additionally, she said the event helps the district make plans for the upcoming school year.
“This is kind of our first chance to see how many kindergarteners we will have next year,” she said.
In Spring Hill, Toon said she’s expecting a 2024 class of about 130 kids. The SH district’s largest class – with approximately 148 students —  are first graders this year, she explained. In this year’s kindergarten class, there are 132 students.
“We dipped down a little bit,” she said. “But we’ve had a very steady upward incline.”
She said because school budgets are so tight, planning for the right number of students is critical. When the kindergarten class two years ago numbered at close to 151 students, Toon said school officials had to make minor adjustments to accommodate them.
This year, Toon said she bumped one of her kindergarten teachers up to first grade for the extra large class.
“We’ve got to have a good handle on how many kids to expect and the staffing we need to cover them,” she said. “It’s one of those things when trying to budget, you really have to have a good idea on students… Our Kindergarten Round Up numbers are usually pretty solid.”
Pam Tate, principal at Gardner Elementary School, said the whole idea is to get students ready for school.
That means offering at the roundup, “enrollment procedures and paperwork and a warm welcome that includes lots of friendly faces and smiles to support their child’s first experiences at school,” Tate said.
Whitter said sometimes teachers and school administrators just get used to the school routine.
“But to see those four and five year olds come in and be so excited about coming to school is fun,” Whitter said.
Kindergarten Round Up for the Gardner Edgerton School District will be at 6 p.m. on Feb. 22 at each of the district’s six elementary schools. Students who will be 5 years-old on or before Aug. 31, 2011 are welcome to attend. Parents are asked to call their child’s school to make a reservation or stop by the school to pick up a flyer.
At the Spring Hill School District, Kindergarten Round Ups will be hosted at 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and at 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. on April 1 at Spring Hill Elementary School and at Prairie Creek Elementary School.