Learn more about Kindergarten in the Howard County Public School System.
- Expectations for school readiness (and receive a Ready for Kindergarten toolkit).
- Details about the kindergarten program.
- Information about HCPSS kindergarten registration.
- Ways that families and children can be supported during the transition to kindergarten.
- Lisa J. Davis, Coordinator, Early Childhood Programs
- Amy Raymond, Instructional Facilitator, Early Childhood Programs
[Davis] Welcome. I think this is quite a big crowd. We love a big crowd. Hopefully if your friends didn’t come with you this evening you’re gonna tell them about this so they can come on Monday night because we do have one more of these.
Welcome to the Road to Kindergarten. My name is Lisa Davis. I’m the Coordinator of Early Childhood Programs for the Howard County Public School System.
We are very excited, as we always are, to get our kindergarten parents into the room and tell them all the things we want to tell them. It’s funny one of these we did years ago a parent raised their hand at the end and said, “so when is this school going to call me and tell me that it’s time to come register” and I had to remind her that we don’t know who you are until you come to us.
Which is why we do such broad outreach and advertising to find you, so that you can come join us and learn information about getting ready for kindergarten. So welcome!
Before I begin, let me tell you who is responsible for this event. It is sponsored by the Howard County Public School System in tandem with all of these other folks. Our transition to kindergarten work group has been together since 2007, and we work really hard to try to kind of bridge the gap between all the different settings that a child might be in before they come to school. They might be in a home with a family member, or relative, parent, neighbor. They might be in family child care, nursery school, child care center, Head Start, Pre-K. There’s lots of things children do before they come to us and so we work really closely with all of those different people to make sure that we’re providing the best education for your children from birth all the way up to 12th grade in the school system.
We also have members of my office here this evening we have Amy Raymond. And we have Kym Nwosu. And then all the people that you saw outside helping you, wearing the white shirts, they were members of the school system, teachers, there were childcare directors, childcare teachers. And then all of the volunteers in the cafeteria are licensed child care providers volunteering to take care of your children.
So just a few reminders before we get started, make sure your cell phones are turned off, at least the ringers are turned off please, and if you need to take a call of course you can go out into the hallway. The child care room is available for all children ages 2 and up. If you did keep a child in here with you that’s absolutely fine, but they might get a little bored, so if they need to talk, walk, cry, anything else feel free to go out into the hallway with them. And I also need to tell you since we are such a large crowd that we do have an emergency evacuation plan in place. In 10 years we’ve never needed it. Knock on wood. But because if everybody’s habit to go out the way they came in, I need to make sure you know that is not the way we want you to go out. Because that is not the closest way out of this building. And we don’t want you all running to grab your children in a chaotic moment. So the childcare volunteers and all of the other volunteers are trained on what to do. They’re going to be taking the children right outside because they’re near that front entrance. All of you would be leaving this way. There’s doors there. There’s doors here. And there’s an outside door right here. And we would all meet at the big electronic marquee sign out in the front of the building. But it’s not gonna happen. But I took care of letting you know. Okay?
So the plan for tonight is that we want to give you really three main things. First, we want to talk a little bit about readiness and what school readiness really means, because you still have almost nine months to go until your child starts kindergarten. And there’s a lot of things that you can be thinking about and watching and doing to make sure that your child has the best experience they can have as they transition into the new experience. Then we’re going to talk about what our kindergarten program really looks like. What is the typical day look like? What are the kinds of things that happen in school? Just so you’re prepared and you can make sure that your child is prepared?
And then we’re going to talk about the actual processes and procedures that are gonna go through as you register for kindergarten, the kinds of things that you need to know to get ready for that next step.
So, the next few slides I’m just gonna flip through and let you read yourself. I kind of want to ground you in thinking about why we’ve all gathered here this evening together.
And on that note…Welcome to the Class of 2031. [laughter]
[Lisa] Ra! Ra! 2031! Take a deep breath. It’s all good.
So we really are here to support you all the way to 2031 and your child is going to be so successful because you are sitting in these because you are sitting in these chairs tonight.
I do want to kind of give you a feel for the plan for this journey into kindergarten. Right now we’re at the bottom of this pyramid. This is the county-level information. So this is coming from the Early Childhood Programs Office, which is responsible for programming and staffing and curriculum and purchasing for all of the kindergartens in the county. We have close to two hundred kindergarten classrooms in forty-two, about to be forty-two, elementary schools. And we have about four-thousand entering kindergartners. So the information that we’re giving you tonight is the information that we know is the same across all 42 schools. It’s the kind of things that we can tell you that we know everybody needs to know. But then when you leave here and you go register for kindergarten and you enter your school, you’re going to learn a little bit more that might be different about School A, than School B, then School C.
You’re gonna have a community at that school with different staff and different parents and different activities and you’re gonna get to know that place a little better. And then as you move towards the fall and you find out who your child’s teacher is, you’re going to learn even more specifics about that classroom and how that classroom works, and the kind of people you’re going to be working with, and the environment that your child will be in. So tonight we’re here at the county-level and then as you progress from now until September, you’re going to be moving to the top of that pyramid.
So what does ready for school mean? Real-life experiences are probably the most important thing a child needs to be ready for school. It’s not about the workbooks. Not about flashcards. Honestly, it’s not even just about reading books to them although that’s awfully important. It’s about taking them places, anywhere, and talking to them about it. And asking them questions. And letting them talk to you about it. And letting them notice things. And it’s not places that cost money, it’s everywhere – the grocery store, and the park, and the zoo, and a museum, and walking around the neighborhood looking at things, and taking them places. My son used to love going to watch construction vehicles anywhere we could find them. We would just park on the side of the road and look at the new houses being built so that he could name all the trucks that he saw. So children love to see new things. They’ve only been on this earth for four or five years so far. There’s a lot out there that’s new to them that they want to learn more about and be an expert on and tell you about, and ask you things about and be able to tell other kids about it. And the more that you give them those opportunities, the more stuff they have to bring with them when they come into school. And it goes right along with this early vocabulary and literacy exposure because reading books is important but there’s only so much you can learn from a book if you don’t have these experiences to connect it to. So when a child sits down in a reading group for the first time and opens up a book and the teacher encourages the children to look at the pictures and talk about what they notice and ask questions, the children that don’t have the prior experiences really don’t necessarily have as much to talk about.
They don’t know all these things in the book. They haven’t seen those things before. They don’t have words to describe them. And then the other children, doesn’t matter if anybody’s reading or not, the point is that they recognize the things that are in the book and they can have conversations about them. Oral language is so important and we know from research that thirty million words are what children are bringing with them to school that they’ve heard before if they’re in a language rich environment. More than 30 million words, because there’s a gap of 30 million words between children who don’t have those experiences and the children that do. They don’t know how to say those 30 million words, they’re not using them in conversation, but they’ve heard them. And so those synapses in their brain those neurons are connecting and they are ripe and ready to attach it to some kind of learning. So if I teach you nothing else this evening I want you to spend the next nine months going places and talking about all the things that you see and make sure your child has as much opportunity to talk back to you, as you are talking to them.
Areas of confidence and strength. This goes along with the young curious minds, in the sense that we want all children to enter school confident. Willing to take risks. Willing to ask questions. Willing to ask for help. And really understanding that they don’t know everything yet. Because a lot of kids come to school with a lot of knowledge. And as soon as there’s something that’s hard for them, or that they don’t, know they start to shut down. Because they thought they knew a lot. They thought they were good at stuff. And then all of a sudden there’s other children who know things that they don’t know. Or the teacher asks them to do something that they don’t know how to do. That can be very scary. So what you want to spend the next nine months doing is showing your child, explaining to your child, that everybody is good at different stuff. We all know lots of different things and the whole point of going to school is that none of us know everything yet. And our job in school is to learn new things that we didn’t know before and to apply the skills that we have to new experiences. So you really want them to be willing to take those risks. Not needing to be a perfectionist. Willing to make mistakes and try new things. So spend time thinking about how you can cultivate that in your home and in your experiences that you’re having with your child.
Developmentally appropriate is just about making sure that you recognize that a four, or five, or six-year old needs different things than a two-year old or a ten-year old. Because our teachers know this. Our teachers go to school to learn about what’s appropriate for that age and that range of development that they’re seeing in their classrooms. And so we know that children have to move to learn. They have to hold things in their hand and feel them and touch them and experience them to learn. We know that children need opportunities to talk to each other, but also need time to kind of be alone. And you’ll see when Amy talks later how our day is organized around those developmentally appropriate activities. But you want to make sure that you’re giving your child exposure to all kinds of things like glue and scissors and all these things that make your house messy. They need to be trying new things and experimenting with them so they don’t walk into school and feel like everything is something that they’re seeing for the very first time. You want them to feel comfortable. Our job is to teach them, but if you expose them and they have something to connect to, they’re going to feel so much more comfortable when they enter the classroom. Okay.
So, we really pay attention to the whole child. Our job is to make sure that we are teaching them every content area. What you see up here is a representation of all of the domains of learning that we focus on in both pre-k and kindergarten. We look at language and literacy, mathematics, science, social studies and health, physical development, social-emotional development, fine arts. We want to make sure that we’re giving children well-rounded experiences. And also when they come in we have to find out what they already know about all of these things. So in the summer, in the fall, the teachers are finding ways to get to know your children. And in all of these different areas through observation, through asking questions, the more that they meet them and talk with them they teachers know the kinds of things that they’re looking for to be able to pinpoint what are your child’s strengths? What are your child’s needs? So that they can program appropriately for them when they start school.
Now, I’m gonna tell you a story because Amy says I have to tell the story. And I can’t figure out where it’s the best place to tell it so I’m gonna tell it now. Some of you had children that started walking when they were 9 months old. And you thought your child was gifted. Admit it. [laughter] And some of you had children that didn’t start walking until they were about 13 or 14 months old and you were in an absolute panic. Because all your friends kids were walking and yours wasn’t yet. And you thought he was behind. Then, a lot of you had children that started walking around the typical age which is about 12 months. And you were like “yeah, we’re right on track everything’s good.” But when they come to kindergarten and they walk in our doors we have no idea who walked at 9 months and who off to 13 months, because they all learn to walk. And that’s the same for reading. That’s the same for math. For the most part children are going to go through a developmental continuum of their very own, regardless of what normal is, everybody develops at a rate that is all their own.
Your job is to facilitate that development. So when your child was learning to walk you probably did not just stand back and say, “Have at it.” You probably found ways to help. To encourage. You said, “Come on you can do it.” Or you put them over by the coffee table so that they had something to hold on to while they were learning to walk. You found all these ways to encourage and prompt and help without doing it for them. You held their hands. Right? And then eventually you started to take the help away and they do it on their own. You never said, “Do that now”, or we’re gonna we’re in trouble if you can’t do that now. Right? There’s these things about development that just need to be facilitated and they happen on their own time. So that’s what I want you to remember about all of these things. Is that these are just stages of development for children too. And so our kindergarten teachers are very gifted at recognizing what typical average children can do at 4 years, old 5 years old, 6 years old. But they recognize that every child is coming in at a different place along their own continuum of development. And they’re ready to help them move along that. Okay?
So, some things that you can do that are just like holding their hand and let learning how to walk, is facilitate some early learning before they come to school. We do have things on the website. There are pre-k and kindergarten pages for families. If you search for family and community resources on our website you’ll find lots of games and activities and suggestions of things you can do. There’s also the curriculum just to give you a sense of the types of things we work on. Oops. I’m sorry.
When you leave today. When you turn in your feedback form that you’re going to so diligently complete before you leave. You’re going to hand that to someone on your way out and they’re gonna give you a school readiness transition to kindergarten toolkit with some resources in it.
And Howard County has purchased a subscription to something called Ready Rosie for every single family in Howard County. And what it does is it gives you two minute videos. Very, very quick videos of all different ages of children between the ages of birth and five. And, it just shows regular parents doing regular things with their children to facilitate learning, but the activities that they were given to do were written by educators. So it kind of gives you ideas for learning at home and actually right now I’m gonna have you take out your phone, because if you don’t you’ll forget when you get home. So take out your phone right now. And then you have to put it away when we’re done. But you can go to readyrosie.com /register.
You can either choose to get texts or emails. And then each week what’s going to happen is they’re gonna send you a playlist of videos, but you also have full access to the site to go in at any time. And there’s expert videos and all kinds of fun information and it’s only free because Howard County has purchased a subscription for all of our families. You’re saying that my school has ReadyRosie when you log on. Because if you didn’t, if we hadn’t paid for you it would tell you what you need to do to try to get a subscription. And then you can actually choose if you want Spanish or English and by putting in your Howard County zip code, it’s how you’re going to get access. Okay, hopefully you at least took a picture if nothing else. I’m going to move on. You’re gonna put your phones away and there is information about this in your toolkit also when you leave today.
And, Amy is going to tell you about our typical kindergarten day.
[Amy] Thanks, Lisa. Hi. Good evening everybody.
All right, so as Lisa mentioned the first part of this evening was all about readiness and the kinds of experiences you can share with your child to support them as they get ready to start kindergarten this fall. The next portion is all about what are they going to experience in their day-to-day when they come to school?
Behind me you see on the screen our vision. I want you to take a moment to read it.
As you can see, our vision is all about supporting not only the academic growth of your child, but also nurturing their social-emotional development as well. And that’s what Lisa referred to as the “whole child”. This is really important to our teachers that they recognize all components of a child’s development and nurture it. And not only that but when they come to one of our 42 schools this fall, they’re also going to be helping them learn how to be a student in the public school setting. The majority of students that come to kindergarten, this is their first time walking through the big school building and riding the school bus and coming to school with lots of different grades. So teachers are working on all that stuff in the classroom, but they’re also helping them with other things like fire drills, when we talked about the emergency exits earlier. They’re helping them learn how to walk down the hallway. How to go through the lunch line. Take their milk. Make their food choices. And go play on the playground with lots of different children. So teachers are thinking about all of these things to make sure that all of your children have a successful foundation and start to their school careers.
We’re going to get into the specific academic components in just a moment, but I’m going to talk about these four big areas first. Because these four things kind of sit on top of every moment of their school day and the teachers weave them in regardless of the subject area. The first one’s developmentally-appropriate practice. Lisa mentioned that one earlier. That’s knowing where children fall along a learning trajectory, which is kind of that progression that there’s different points of time of development. They know where that child falls and helps move them forward accordingly. On top of that they think about how some children like to learn with visual supports, auditory supports, and kinesthetic components as well. An additional layer of that is understanding that young children need concrete experiences to help make the abstract make sense to them. So they use things that we call manipulatives. And you’ll see things like alphabet magnetic magnets and alphabetic tiles. They’ll use counters like chips and bears and they’ll even use organizers like ten frames to help them keep track of their counting. And we have expressive language opportunities and these again are used in all subject areas. And that’s not only expressing my wants or needs and when I need help, but it’s also being able to tell my teacher why I know something’s right. So we’ll hear kids say all the time, “I know two plus two is four”. But they can also say, “I know two plus two is four because I see two red crayons and two blue crayons and those add up for a total of four”. It’s also that give-and-take with a friend or a teacher, so they stay on topic when they’re having a conversation. And they’re asking questions about the conversation. And they’re attending to the speaker, the person that they’re speaking with.
We also have social-emotional behavioral skill development, so of course we want students to be able to articulate their emotions and recognize them both in themselves and in others, and demonstrate empathy for those emotions. But also something that we work to develop is called inhibitory control. And what that means is that when your child feels really, really excited. Or really frustrated, that they’re learning to express that in a way both physically and with their words, in an appropriate way for their age. They’re also learning those navigation pieces of friendship. So how to negotiate situations if we’re playing together in the kitchen area, whose turn is it to play the baby? Or how to problem-solve. If we’re not getting along what can we do to work it out? Or when do I need to see a teacher?
Finally, there’s the integrated instruction. And I’m getting ready to talk about those specific subjects that certainly have devoted periods of time in the school day to those subjects. But then the teachers weave these ideas throughout the day to make it really meaningful for your child and they can make these connections and see it from different points of view. An upcoming unit for the next quarter in social studies is called My Country Tis of Thee. And this is really focused on American symbols. So the teacher will teach them in social studies, but when they go to language arts she may read a story about American symbols. When they go to writing they might write informational pieces where they share facts about those symbols, or they do an opinion piece where they state which ones they’re favored and back it up with reasons why. When they go to center time they may use blocks to build a model of an American symbol. Or they may use paint to paint a portrait.
So this is the schedule. The kindergarten day is six and a half hours long. And this schedule is just a sample. Your child’s schedule may be in this order it may be slightly different depending on the needs of the school. And we’ll get into specific time components in just a minute.
The first thing is arrival in morning work. So students come into kindergarten they ride the bus. They walk to school. Or they’re in the car loop. And Lisa’s going to talk about how you find out how your child comes to school. But whichever way they come in, they’re coming in all together with the rest of the school And there’s teachers stationed at the bus loop, at the car loop, they’re waiting to help guide them to where they need to go. And then there’s our homeroom teacher who’s waiting in the classroom to greet them there. And I’m telling you this part because this might be a change for you for what you’re accustomed to in your childcare setting. In childcare it’s very common where you go to the car loop, you get to talk to the teacher and drop the child off there and kind of have a little conversation. Or you may take your child down to the classroom and help them get unpacked. In the elementary school, they’re gonna be walking in by themselves with the rest of their classmates. So you say your good-byes at the car loop, or the bus stop. And I want to tell you that your child may, or may not have some days where that transition is a little bit hard for them. And that’s normal. You know I taught kindergarten for over ten years. And every year there were some students where that transition was a little hard. But what I can tell you is that by the time they walk through that front door with all their friends, and they walk into the classroom, and the teacher greets them by name and says they’re so happy they’re here today they feel much better. You may still feel a little weepy but your kid is feeling good and excited to be in school.
And the teacher has set up things purposely in the classroom to help bring the children in and get them ready to start their day. They take down chairs. They set out materials. They hang up their backpacks on their own. They answer questions about the day. They take out their lunchboxes or place their lunch orders. All of these things are designed to help get the children’s minds kind of ready for learning. But also help them see themselves as contributing to their classroom community and function.
Then they have their opening and morning meeting. And this is where they gather together as a community of learners to talk about what they’re gonna do for the school day. They sing songs. And they also get to share news from home that they want all of their friends to know about. Because it’s important for children in kindergarten to see themselves as members of this learning community. Where we care about each other and we celebrate all the things that make us special.
We have language arts. Language arts is about 90 minutes long. And I know you’re thinking to yourself 90 minutes is a really long time for a 5 year-old.
But remember, as I said we work in these chunks of time they’re never sitting for long periods of time that’s inappropriate for their age. So the beginning of the year the chunks of learning are about 10 minutes long. And then they build up to 15. And then as they have more stamina and more focus the teachers are working with them for 20 minute chunks of time. So they work, they scaffold that learning to help get them there. That’s that kind of hand-holding that Lisa was talking about. Now they start off in their language arts in a whole group lesson where they work with their friends and talk about the main ideas. And then they break into small group instruction and that’s where they spend the vast majority of that 90 minutes, is working in small groups on skills with other children that have similar skills and needs as them.
So as Lisa was kind of talking about this range of development and we have this for all subject areas. And as I mentioned I taught kindergarten for over 10 years and every class is different. But there is a commonality and that every year there was children that walked in the front door that could recognize their name. And there were kids that could read books. And there were children that came in that could write a few letters. And children that were writing lists of words and sentences. Okay? Very typical trajectory or progression. But every year children had friends that had the same skills and the same needs. And they work together in small groups to make their own steps forward. And make their own move forward along that trajectory. And the teachers find out where they are, they’re constantly monitoring them and help move them forward along that trajectory. Aside from that time when they’re working with their teachers with a small group, they also spend some time by themselves playing games to practice for mastery. And they also work with paraeducators who work within our kindergarten classrooms and help support the curriculum and implement plans that the teacher has given them.
We have science social studies and health. These are called content blocks and content is roughly 30 to 40 minutes. Depends on the school and it depends on the subject that they’re studying, but generally each quarter they spend some time in science for a few weeks, sometime in social studies and some time in health. And you can read all about the different units online but for example one of the units in science is, Scientists and Engineers, that’s how they start the school year. For social studies I mentioned we have My Country Tis of Thee coming up. And in health we have something we have disease prevention and control. So check out our online resources to find out more about those units.
Okay. Lunch and recess. Lunch is 30 minutes. Recess is 30 minutes too. And they have recess every day. And we try to go outside as much as possible so make sure your child is dressed appropriately. Lunch 30 minutes and I’m going to come back to this because it may seem like a long period of time for you. But by the time children get through the lunch line, or get to their table and start to get unpacked. And then realize I’m sitting next to my friends and I can’t wait to tell them this great story about what happened on the playground. And what are we going to be doing later this afternoon in school? And before you know it time’s running now and we haven’t even started eating. So I’m telling you this now so that if you’re like me and you have family members who are grazers that kind of like to walk around and then go do something and come back and eat a little bit more. Help your child get accustomed to eating for this period of time of about 30 minutes. And if there’s one place where you could volunteer particularly in the first month of school it is here. Because this is a really big thing to be in the cafeteria and there’s milk cartons that needed to be opened. And containers and juice boxes. And the baggies of apples. So, definitely talk to the teachers if you would like to volunteer because they’d love to see you there.
Okay. We have Take Ten and Quiet Time. These aren’t very long periods of time, maybe about 10 to 15 minutes throughout the school day. Teacher’s kind of sprinkle in those Take 10s and what they are just breaks. Many times their movement breaks just to help children kind of reset for their learning. And Quiet Time is not nap time. It’s more of a time for them to rest themselves and kind of be inside their own heads for a little bit, without someone asking them to do something. Because even though they go to recess and that’s a break there’s rules. And even when they go to centers and are playing with their friends, there’s rules. So Quiet Time is a really great time for kids just to take a moment, be relaxed and collect their thoughts.
We have mathematics every day and it’s 60 minutes long. Mathematics is very similar to language arts in that again, teachers get to know your children. They know where they are and where they need to go when they plan accordingly. Again, they start off with some whole group lessons and then they work in a small group with friends with like skills and needs to help focus their learning and be really specific to their learning plan. Mathematics in particular is where we use a lot of those manipulatives to support concrete learning. So you’ll see kids playing games using lots of materials to show their learning. It’s a really fun and active time and for most of my students this was one of their favorite subjects every year. We have related arts every day. Depending on the subject related arts is 30 minutes to 60 minutes, so an average of 45 minutes every day, give or take. You’ll get more information from your teacher for the length of time and which one they have during the week. That’s important for you to know so that you can have your child wear appropriate shoes particularly on those PE days. The other good thing for you to know about that is that your children, when they come to kindergarten, they have their homeroom teacher that they’ve bonded with and they get to know and those parent educators. But then on the first day of school they may go to art class and meet the art teacher for the first time. And then meet this teacher and learn about their rules in their classroom. So that’s something important for you to share with your child when they go to school particularly in those first few weeks. You know get excited with them. Say, “Hey you’re gonna get to go to art today and meet you our teacher” or, “You’re gonna meet the PE teacher”, and so on and that just helps them, you know what’s coming up and feel secure in their schedule.
Finally, we have student-selected activities. This is roughly 30 to 40 minutes every day as well. And this is when children are playing and really bring their learning to life. So they have things like blocks and dramatic play, where they can dress up as different community workers for example and kind of explore what those roles and responsibilities are like. They have art where they’re painting and using materials like scraps of paper to make new creations. They have math centers. Writing centers. Computer center and so on. This is a chance for children to select where they want to play with peers. And then practice the skills that they’ve been learning with their teachers, so practice some of those academics. But also practice those social-emotional skills. Like working with friends and different stations.
So that’s their day. It’s busy, and engaging, and fun. And those first few weeks they’re going to be exhausted. Very, very tired so we’re just gonna warn you now that they make him come home to you a little bit cranky. So just remember that they’re putting all of their energy into all of these great things that they’re doing during their school day. There’s a couple things I want to point out. Our class ratios are roughly 1 to 22. Some schools are a little smaller than that. Some schools are a little larger, it just depends. Some of our schools have two kindergarten teachers, some have up to eight. So again, it depends on the school. Regardless, they’re planning together to develop that kindergarten program that’s based on that vision and all of these components that I shared for you here. You know we have children that come to kindergarten that walk in and they just turned five on August 31st. And in the same classroom, there’s a child that turns 6 on September 2nd. Teachers meet the children where they are and plan for their needs. That’s that differentiated instruction. For children that are five and thus this is their kindergarten year, but you feel very strongly that your child is not ready to begin kindergarten yet. You can apply for a waiver. It doesn’t happen often but that is an option for you. Likewise, if your children is four, but will be turning five between September 2nd and October 13th, you can apply for early admission. Information about early admission and the waiver can both be found on our website. All right so let’s now get into the registration part and Lisa’s going to share how you get all those resources and materials on our website.
[Lisa] So I was laughing when Amy was telling you that your children are going to be tired. They’re gonna be knocked out those first couple of weeks. And they’re gonna be cranky, and rude, and obnoxious, so just remember this moment when we told you that and forgive them, at least for the first month of school. Because they really are using everything in themselves to hold it together all day for us. They work really hard to follow the rules and learn all this new stuff and meet all these new people and do everything they’re supposed to do. And they’re gonna come home to you and just arrrgh! Let it out. So just take it in enjoy it. Know it for what it is. And acknowledge it and help them through it. Okay. So, our website is a place that has so much information that I swear to you any question that you have it can be answered by the information on the website. However, it’s so much information that sometimes it’s hard to find it if you don’t know what you’re looking for. So what we’ve done is just taken a couple screenshots to walk you through the places that we think you’re going to want to go on the website, so that you can find what you need. So on the home page when you first go to hcpss.org. One of the things you’re going to need if you don’t know it already, is the school and bus locator, down here on the bottom. Because that tells you what school you’re going to go to. And many people who aren’t from Maryland who went to school somewhere else, think that they can choose the school they’re going to go to, or that they go to the school that’s closest to their home. Really, it’s not necessarily closest in distance to your home, it’s the one that the map of Howard County has drawn the boundary line around your house and you have a school that you are districted to based on your address. And that information is currently changing because we are building, or have built and are getting ready to open, a brand new school. Elementary school 42, is now called Hanover Hills Elementary. But because of that and because we’re constantly shifting and looking to make sure that we’re providing the best program, we do have some changes to school districts happening in the fall. So, when you go to the school and bus locator and you type in your address, what you’re gonna find is the school, that elementary school, middle school, high school that you are currently districted for in this current school year and the one that you will be districted for next school year in the fall. In many cases, as you can see here, it’s the same. It’s not that it’s a wholesale shift for the entire county, but there are some that are different and so you’ll want to pay attention to that. If the school that you’re going to in the fall is Hanover Hills, it is not open yet for you to go register there. And so, you will go to the school that you are currently for this year districted to. And they are prepared to take in your registration information and they will send it to the new school when it opens. And as soon as that school opens you’ll know early enough that you can go visit. Everybody else is going to the school that they are districted for in the fall, to register. I’m going to take questions at the end so if you write it down and don’t forget we’ll make sure that we answer that.
I did want to go back to the homepage to also point out this school calendar link at the top. I do think that sometimes a shock for people who are used to the childcare world, where pretty much childcare is open all the time. They try not to close very often in childcare. And they give you that support most days of the year. The public school system however does have to close for various reasons. There are state mandated holidays. There are teacher professional days. There’s summer. And so just so that you have those dates in your planner and are prepared for them you’d want to check out the school calendar as soon as the Board of Education approves it for the next year, they post it on the website so that you can see that.
Okay. I also wanted you to know you can sign up now, you don’t have to wait until you are registered to start getting information from the school system. So you can go ahead and register as a non-HCPSS parent when you get home tonight. And then as soon as you become a registered parent your account will just flip over to that account. You won’t have duplicate accounts. But you could register for HCPSS News now if you choose to do so.
Okay. I also wanted you to know that when you go to the home page there’s that blue menu bar at the top and the pull downs have a lot of places that you might need to go. For example, if you pull down the school’s menu and you go to elementary schools, you can actually find out information about your own school. Remember, tonight is the county level information. But I told you that each of you have things about your own school you might want to learn, so this is a good place to start. And it’ll give you information about the 42 schools in Howard County. If you go to the services tab one of the things that you might want to go to is the transportation link.
Amy mentioned earlier about how some kids walk, some kids ride the bus some kids ride in a car. Children that live more than a mile from the school are typically given bus service. Less than a mile is a walker. There are some strange situations where there are no sidewalks in a neighborhood. So basically when you go to that school and bus locator I told you about, it also gives you your bus information or walking information. This site also gives you lots of information about the rules of the bus and the information that you need to know about transportation to and from school.
Oh. I know what I wanted to tell you this is really important. Whatever your child is going to do typically. Do it on the first day. So if your child is going to be a bus rider. Make him or her ride the bus on the first day of school. It is very tempting for a first-time kindergarten parent to decide to take their child out to breakfast - to celebrate the big day. And drive them to school. And flowers. And balloons. And no… you can’t do that. So promise me right now that is not your plan. You may follow behind the bus with the video camera. You may have a party at the bus stop. But you may not do anything different with the child’s routine on the first day…then what is expected of them for the rest of the week, and the month, etc. The reason for that is everybody’s new on the first day. Nobody knows what’s going on. So not only are all their friends confused and excited at the same time as they are, but when they get to school there are gazillion people waiting to heard the kindergartners, they’re all labeled in some fashion. A sticker on their forehead, or a note on their backpack, or a bracelet on the arm, or something so that they know who they are and they all get them to where they need to go safely. And by the second or third day you would be amazed at how smoothly the arrival process actually happens because everybody’s got the routine. But guess what? If your child wasn’t the one who did what they were supposed to do on first day, then when they enter into the situation on the second or third or fourth day of school, they don’t know what’s going on and everybody else does. And that is stressful. So promise, okay? All right.
The next thing is about lunches. Children can bring a lunch. Children can buy a lunch. They don’t have to commit to doing the same thing every day because a lot of children like to kind of change their minds and try things out. Or, don’t like to try things out and like to do the same thing every day. So either of those options is okay. There are payment plans if you want them there’s a menu information if you want it. The schools handle the process of the children paying for lunch using a PIN number, choosing their food, it’s all taken care of no one goes hungry. But you do may want to look at this so that you’re kind of familiar with the process and then when you get to your school they will of course give you more information. And allergies information is on there also. I know there are always some allergy concerns.
This is a big one because typically childcare centers open at 7 in the morning. Close 6:00 at night and you’re able to get to and from work without much of an issue. A lot of people don’t realize until this very moment that they’re sitting here that, “Oh my gosh, elementary school might not start until 9:30 in the morning. What am I gonna do with my child in the morning when I have to go to work?” So, if that’s you just know that there are offerings of before care and aftercare in the schools - every school has this through Rec. and Parks, Howard County Recreation and Parks or Columbia Association offers it at each school. But they fill up fast. And so we’ve learned after all our years of doing this that this is something we needed to tell our kindergarten parents early.
Because they often didn’t know that they needed to sign up for it and by the time they found out the slots were filled. So this is something you think you might need you should call Recreation and Parks or Columbia Association. If you go to the website it actually tells you which of those is located at each school. So you’ll know which ones services your school. And they actually host the childcare services on-site at the school so that’s where the kids come and go before and after. If those fill up or if that’s not a program that you want, you can call the Care Center, they have options they can tell you about. Because there are various child care providers, either family providers or centers, in those neighborhoods that often are known for helping to take care of the children before and after hours.
The academics tab will give you information about the curriculum. I’m not going to go through that because Amy gave you a good overview. But I just wanted you to know it’s there. A lot of people have questions about special education, or gifted and talented, or other services that we provide in addition to all of the content areas, so all of that’s there if you need it.
There’s a page just about getting ready for kindergarten and it has a transition timeline. So it has ideas at the bottom of this page about Things that you can do in the winter, now. Things that you can do in the spring. Things that you can do in the summer to support your child’s transition. And then it also links you directly to the enrollment information that you need to know.
So when you go to the enrollment page it gives you frequently asked questions. It gives you steps to follow. It tells you all about the things you need to know. And, of course, we’re gonna throw one wrench into it. Everything up there is gonna be a little bit different because we’re gonna pilot online registration this year with our new kindergarten families. So, that information is not up there yet because they’re actually working out all the kinks in the system right now. But you will have information available on the website to you before it goes live, so that you can fill out the forms online just to save you time when you come into the school. You still have to come into the school. Because we still have to know who you are. You still have to prove who you are. Prove where you live. And prove that that’s your child and all those good things. But it’ll just save some time on both ends for you to be able to fill out the forms online before you come.
So these are the things you’re going to need. This list is also going to be on the tool kit that you’re gonna pick up on the way out today to help you remember what you need. Basically, you’re just showing us who you are, where you live. That you actually live at that address. That the child is who you say it is. That they’re immunized up to whatever point they are for that age. So remember, your children kind of vary by one year in this room and so whatever immunizations they’re supposed to have up to this point, they will need to have proof of. And then you will communicate with the nurse as you get additional immunizations before school starts.
Proof of custody is only needed if in fact there is a custody issue. Otherwise, just one parent is okay to come and register the child.
If you need language support. If you feel that English is not your first language and you would like to make sure that someone helps you through the registration process. You can go to the International Student Registration Center. They have interpreters and translated documents in multiple languages to offer you. Otherwise, you’re going to go to your school to register. If your child is in a pre-k or rec program right now in a public school, they’re in MINC, or special education preschool, or they’re learning together peer, or they’re in pre-k. You do not have to register again. Once you register one time in the school system you’re ours forever unless you move, or need to come prove something else, all the way through 12th grade. But you have to do it one time. And you have to do it for each child. I’ve had that question before. So even if you have an older sibling, excuse me, already and you still have to register this new child. But if you’ve already registered for pre-k you don’t have to go through it all again. You can still go to the new school to visit the school, but any paperwork that you need is going to be sent to you at your current school. And all of your records will be sent over to where they need to go.
So all of the things that are getting ready to happen are going to support you on this journey. The registration period is not a fun one for your child. So I’m just letting you know because I have seen little girls come in their princess dresses to registration. That’s not really like a thing, because it’s just filling out forms. So they are welcome to come with you if you need to bring them. But it is not an event for a child. That’s really about filling out the paperwork. After that though it gets fun.
The visitation and tours they’re different at every school. When you go to register they’re going to start telling you about things. They’re gonna put you on an email list so they can start sending you information. Different schools have tours, play dates, popsicles on the playground, spring picnics, parent sessions. There’s going to be lots of opportunities for you, but they’re not going to be able to be offered to you until you go register and make yourself known in that school community. And then they will start reaching out to you with information. The orientation is something specific that will happen right before school starts. That’s when you’ll find out who your teacher is and get to go see the classroom and all that kind of stuff. And then back-to-school night will happen after school starts, once you’ve kind of settled in and you’re ready to hear some more information. So that’s kind of the progression.
There’s also a children’s discovery fair being held on April 14th, it’s an annual event that our County hosts. Lots of different agencies are part of sponsoring it. And it’s really just school readiness fun activities for children that are preschool in kindergarten aged. But any child is welcome and it’s a free event for everyone in Howard County. And then the library hosts “Kindergarten Here We Come” classes. You do have to register for those but registration is not yet open. They say every year they get a barrage of phone calls after the Road to Kindergarten. And they’re not quite ready for those phone calls just yet. But there’s multiple events at each library branch. And what they do is just kind of mimic a typical kindergarten day in a little story time session. And the kids get to meet other children their age who are all getting ready to go to kindergarten. They practice leaving you on the other side of the room. And they even get to see a bus and get climb on the bus and see what that looks like. So it’s kind of a nice rite of passage.
And there’s gonna be lots of books around. Things that Barnes & Noble posts and the library posts. Just lots of opportunities for you to start talking about it. You don’t have to talk about it yet. Remember, we’re telling you this now because it’s almost time to register. But you don’t have to talk about everything too soon with your child. Think about the mind of a four or five year old and how you’re going to kind of space out this transition between now and the fall. Ok?
I did forget to mention when I was on the registration slide because I kept flicking back and forth and I apologize. The dates for the kickoff said March 5th through March 9th. That’s the week that all the schools are open and waiting for you to come. Remember, I told you we have about 4,000 entering kindergartners. So the schools are expecting large crowds of people during that week to come and register. And they will be open at pretty much all times of the day. Not any one specific time. However, after that period if you’re not able to register during that week you can always come in at any time between now and school starting. And you just have to make an appointment because they won’t just be open ready and waiting for everybody at that point. So they’re expecting a large group that kickoff week. After that you will make an appointment. And if you don’t have all of your paperwork, they’ll take in what you have so far. They’ll make an appointment for you to come back and finish. Remember each school has different times so some start at different times end at different times. You’re going to check the website for your school to see what times they’re open.
So just a piece of advice is make sure you get involved. Make sure you recognize that all these hundreds of people in here are feeling the same emotions that you’re feeling right now. You’re anxious. And you’re scared. And you’re excited. And you’re happy. And you’re sad. And you know it’s all very normal and I’ll tell you as someone who’s been through it now from elementary, to middle, to high, to now college, it doesn’t really change much and the feeling that you’re having right now you’re gonna feel the exact same way when you send them off to college. It’s crazy. It’s a crazy ride. But it’s really exciting and and your job is to make sure that you convey all that excitement. And all that joy. And all those questions without conveying the anxiety, and the stress, and the worry. Because you’re the cheerleader. And you’re going to find ways to make sure that this is the best experience your child can have.