The arrival of kindergarten is bittersweet. It’s the beginning of an educational journey that will play a huge role in your child’s growth, development and future. But parents of future kindergartners have questions about…well, all sorts of things, and sometimes it’s hard to find the answers on a webpage or flyer. To help, North Thurston Public Schools (NTPS) is hosting their annual Countdown to Kindergarten program for incoming families on Saturday, February 29, at Timberline High School. The event runs from 9:30 a.m.-Noon and is open to all families in the district with children turning 5-years-old on or before August 31, 2020. Attendees can find their child’s new school, complete the registration process, and learn about special district programs.
“This event is a welcome and registration event,” explains Melodie Stauffer, NTPS Early Learning Instructional Specialist. “Families can get connected with community and district resources, meet their future principal and teachers, and learn more about the elementary school they will attend.”
Principals, mascots, and teachers will be on hand to take welcome pictures at a photo booth, answer questions and let parents know of important dates for Open House, school specific kindergarten events and summer programs. The kids can also enjoy a balloon master, face painting, and other engaging activities for kids in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) and literacy. Upstairs, there will be people to help families with processing paperwork and completing the enrollment process.
It’s suggested that families start registration online and then bring the following documents to complete the process: proof of child’s name and age (like a birth certificate or passport), immunization record, proof of residency, and completed Certificate of Immunization Status form. Downloadable forms can be found on the district’s website. Families who complete the registration process will receive a “Welcome to Kindergarten” bag filled with resource materials and activities to help get their child ready to start school in September!
Why February? Early kindergarten enrollment county-wide makes it easier for all families instead of waiting until the week or day before school. And signing up early is a tremendous asset for teachers and district staff. “We need to have the staffing, and special services ready to prepare for a smooth transition for kids who are coming to school for the first time,” says Stauffer. “This is difficult when families wait until the last minute to enroll. We would like to get to know them as early as possible. Teachers are eager to learn who they will have in their class next year. The earlier you get connected the easier it will be for your child to be ready to go to school.”
There is plenty of research showing the lasting benefits of kindergarten and such early childhood learning. A full day of kindergarten is important because research shows that children participating in developmentally appropriate, full-day programs make greater gains both socially and academically.
“Kindergarten is vital as it sets the tone for your child’s educational experience,” says Stauffer. “Kindergarten is a transition year and our goal here at North Thurston Public Schools is to make sure the children in our community have the most positive experience possible as they move into their elementary school years. We also know that children who receive support at a younger age while their brains are still growing and developing, have a better chance of improving in all areas.”
If you have a child getting ready for the big step that is kindergarten, hooray! Before you go backpack shopping or load up on classroom snacks, mark your calendar on February 29 for taking the pre-kindergarten plunge. The Countdown to Kindergarten has begun and take it from this mom: bring plenty of tissues for the first day of school. They’ll be fine but I guarantee that you will need them.
NTPS Hosts Family Education, Storytimes for Preschool Families
To help preschool aged children become kindergarten ready, the NTPS Early Learning department created a family education series. “Their goal was to form early partnerships with NTPS families, create an opportunity for parents to connect, and educate families on the importance of WaKIDS,” said Nancy Cutlip, Family Engagement Liaison. Sponsored by the Rotary Club of Lacey, “Success in the Early Years” program is in its second year, providing monthly workshops on topics such as physical, cognitive and social-emotional development, literacy, early math, and communication. Classes are free, with expert speakers, refreshments, door prizes, make-and-takes, and child care for ages 3-10 (registration required) is provided.
During the summer NTPS also offers the Ready, Set, Read-NTPS! Bilingual Preschool Storytime program. This program takes place weekly, during the months of July and August, and includes a storytime in two languages (Spanish and English), fun activities for families, library book check-out, fun prizes, and a free book each week provided by NTPS partner South Sound Reading Foundation.