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Entering Kindergarten After Covid

Entering Kindergarten After Covid

kindergarten girl in glasses writing in a notebook

We lost so much this past year. All of us. It was a time of crippling isolation, of grief and fear. The emotional toll was drastic, felt by all. Every loss, no matter the size, was a big loss. Kids played and learned with masks on. They navigated virtual school, hybrid learning, and restructured school days. Teachers put in endless hours and found ways to creatively connect with their students. Parents missed out on field trips, class parties, and eating lunch at school with their kids.

We all grappled with something we’ve never encountered in our lifetime, something nobody trained for, all while trying to retain the best sense of normalcy we could. And now, here we are. On the other side (sort of), such as it is. It’s only natural that parents of rising Kindergartners would be a bit anxious, especially after watching last year from the sidelines.

So we asked Madison County principal Jenny McAlister, Ed.S., of Endeavor Elementary, to provide a few tips for parents facing their first school year after the pandemic. How can families prepare for Kindergarten after Covid?

kindergarten girl painting at a table

Know Where to Get Your Kindergarten After Covid Questions Answered

Parent Q: I have so many questions, I don’t know where to begin. What can I expect at our new school? How long will my child get for lunch? What kind of rest mat should I buy? How does carline work?

JM: Be sure to attend your school’s orientation and bring your questions! Orientation gives you a chance to find your child’s classroom, meet their new teacher, and review procedures.

Feel free to email your new teacher or principal with questions. They welcome questions and are eager to develop relationships with parents and guardians. And be on the lookout for your school’s newsletter, which will be chock full of helpful info, important dates, and links to resources.

Action Step: Go ahead and get registered with your school now so you’re in the loop for receiving new information as soon as it’s available. And join the PTA – it’s a great way to get connected with other parents!

Parent Q: How will my child know where the bathroom is? What if she gets lost in the hallway? It seems like such a big place.

JM: Before the school year begins, call your school to see if you can set up an appointment for a tour. This is a great time to get to know the building’s layout and ask questions about how a typical day goes.

On the first day of school, parents traditionally walk their Kindergartners to class. After this, rest assured that your child will not be wandering the halls alone. Teachers and older volunteer students typically line the halls and help little ones find their way to their classroom (they’re watching for the ones who look lost!).

As an added help, Kindergarten teachers often spend the first week showing their students where everything is located, usually making a game or scavenger hunt out of the tour. Your child will be a pro after the first week!

Parent Q: After a year of avoiding everyone, I’m still pretty skittish. What kind of sanitary procedures, hand-washing, or social distancing should I expect?

JM: Check your school district’s website for information on how to talk to your children about COVID-19, hand washing guidelines, respiratory hygiene, and reopening plans.

As of the writing of this article, the Madison County district website shows the school year beginning at a Level 0, which includes traditional learning with masks being optional under their Ready Set Forward plan.

Among other things, this means increased capacity in the cafeteria (no more awkward spacing between students at lunchtime!), entire classes can visit their library together, and visitors are allowed in the school again. This is great news for parents who miss eating lunch with their kids!

Other useful resources for parents:
Alabama Department of Public Health
CDC website

How Is Your Child Feeling About Kindergarten?

Parent Q: My child is nervous about entering this new school. What should I do to prepare her?

JM: As a mama I would want to tell my child this is a safe place. There will be people there to help you. Let your child know that she’ll get to meet new friends, see those friends each day, and have a lot of fun!

Kindergarten teachers will teach your child about helpers in the community and their roles – from police, to firefighters, principals, and teachers. Students will learn that teachers are there to help them. If this terminology sounds familiar, it is. It’s based on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and his frequent talks about helpers.

Parent Q: I’m concerned – my child missed so many play dates with friends during the pandemic, I’m worried about her adapting socially in kindergarten.

JM: One of the things Alabama schools are doing to meet these needs is taking part in “Mental Health First Aide Training,” a required training provided by Governor Ivey’s S.A.F.E Schools task force. This training is designed to boost awareness of the increased social and emotional needs of students this year. Teachers and principals and will be trained in interventions to help meet those needs.

When our older virtual students were brought in for standardized testing last year, we noticed their hesitancy to talk to each other during breaks. We’d anticipated these issues, and intentionally scheduled time in the art room and on the playground between test modules, and even an ice cream bash on the last day. It really helped the kids to get back into the swing of socializing. -Jenny McAlister, Principal of Endeavor Elementary

Finding your Tribe & Getting Involved

Parent Q: I’m a parent who likes to be active and involved with my child. What are some ways to get plugged in?

JM: Life is just better with community. Start by getting involved with the PTA. It gives you a connection with other parents who have been at the school awhile. They’re a wealth of information and know what it’s like to be in your shoes. As part of the PTA, you’ll be in the middle of everything that’s happening at the school. PTA also offers great opportunities for volunteering at the school.

Another way to get involved is to ask. Sometimes a principal needs a parent to co-sponsor a club, or perhaps needs extra hands for picture day. One Dad co-sponsored a robotics club at his school. His job even let him leave early for the club, since he was helping the community.

Just know that educators are actively learning and preparing to help your children adjust after a pandemic year, and are developing ways to be creative in their support. It’s a great year to enter kindergarten!

Parents of older kids, what was your first day of kindergarten like? Share your stories below and help another mama out!

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