Today’s first day for schoolhouse newbies

By BROOKE J. WOOD

brooke@southwesttimes.com

Today marks the first day of school for Pulaski County students venturing into new school territories for the first time –those attending pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, sixth, and ninth grades.

“This allows those students to become acclimated to their new surroundings without the other children there so that they can grow accustomed to the new building and moving around in the new building with a smaller group,” says Mary Rash, director of administration for Pulaski County’s public schools.

Although these students are starting a day ahead of their classmates, the schoolhouse newbies will be released two hours early.

The Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office is also thinking about what the beginning of school means.

“I would like to take the time to remind drivers to be more cautious and mindful of school buses loading and unloading children throughout the county,” cautions Sheriff Mike Worrell. “Also, keep in mind, the reduced speed limits through each school zone area. My office is here to assist, so please contact us should you observe violations or have special requests.”

Some parents typically have a difficult time dropping off their children for pre-kindergarten or kindergarten and, in many cases, separation anxiety may be just as stressful on the children.

“Separation anxiety for children at that age and their parents is very real,” Rash says. “I think once parents get to the school and realize school’s a safe place for their child – and that there are caring teachers ready to help in the classroom – that will help to ease that anxiety.”

Of course, her main recommendation for the first day and, for that matter, every day of school, is to make sure the children have a good night’s rest before coming to school, what she calls “an established bedtime routine.”

Rash says it’s always good to get them up early enough, have the book bags ready and treat them to a good breakfast. Additionally, breakfast programs are available to students, and she encourages parents to contact a school counselor for more information.

While Critzer and Pulaski elementary schools have had free breakfasts and lunches for the last two years, students at Riverlawn Elementary and Pulaski Middle will get to participate this year.

Ethelene Sadler, the school system’s nutrition director, says it very important for students to take advantage of the breakfast and lunch programs at the county’s schools. [See information on Page A2.]

Continuation of that program requires student participation, she points out. “The more students participate in it, the more it benefits all of us, since the school nutrition program gets reimbursed based on participation.”

Pulaski County students not in Pre-K, kindergarten, sixth and ninth grades will start school Friday.

“Attendance is always critical,” Rash stresses. “So, we need parents to encourage their child to be there every day, on time, all day. Try to schedule doctor and dentist appointments outside of school hours if at all possible.”

She notes that the influenza clinics will return, probably in October, making inoculations available at schools so children don’t have to miss a day.

“We have high hopes for the school year, for every day. Our teachers have in-service training opportunities for an instructional model that’s been developed for our school system by our staff,” she says.

She also suggests that parents contact the school’s counselor if they need assistance with back-to-school supplies.

While there are no policy changes to report for the upcoming school year, she says changes are coming to the Every Student Succeeds Act, and those may be tracked online at www.ed.gov/esea.

“And it’s important that parents stay in contact with teachers,” Rash says. “All teachers have a phone number at school. If the teacher doesn’t answer, as soon as they get the message, they will immediately callback.”

As always, Rash encourages parents to stress the importance of academics and make sure their children complete their homework assignments.

Some experts suggest parents encourage studying every day, as well as “independent learning” by not doing their child’s homework.

To make the school year as smooth as possible for parents and students, Care.com makes the following suggestions:

  • Get your kids involved in programs that they can do after school to keep them active. Create an after-school schedule that allows time for snack, relaxation, play and study. Keep track of existing extracurricular activities to prevent over-scheduling.
  • Try apps like iHomework or MyHomeWorkto help your kids organize assignments. Let kids choose a planner or scheduling tool that they’re excited to use.
  • Set up weekly meetings to review your kids’ schedules for the week(s) ahead. Create a family calendarthat tracks everyone’s activities and commitments. Establish a set “Family Time,” whether it’s during dinner or before bed.
  • Determine how long it takes them to do assignments to help with time management. Use an egg timer to get your kids used to focusing for specific periods of time. Teach your kids to prioritize their assignments by making to-do lists with deadlines. Set a regular alarm each day that signals the start of homework time.
  • Refresh your rules about screen time for the school year. What’s allowed and when?
  • Establish a specific space like the family office as the official “homework area.” Remove distractions like TVs and video game consoles from these areas.
  • Set and enforce regular weekday and weekend bedtimes. Make sure your kids (and you) have an effective wake-up alarm that works for them. Set an alarm or notification 30 minutes before bedtime. Remove things like mobile devices from kids’ bedrooms to focus them on sleeping. Use night lights, white sound machines and fans for kids who can’t get to sleep.
  • Touch base with teachers early on to troubleshoot any issues your kids may be having.
  • Model good behavior by doing your own work/projects while your kids do homework.
  • Encourage your kids to lay out their school clothes the night before. Have them pack their school bags before they go to sleep that night. Have them also pack their gym bags the night before and leave them by the door. If your kids take their own lunch, pack their lunch boxes before going to bed.
  • Create an inbox for kids to leave things that need your attention, like permission slips.
  • Get copies of school menus in advance to discuss lunch choices.
  • Buy reusable sports bottles to increase their water consumption during the day.
  • Have a backup transportation mode planned in case your kids miss the bus.

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