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Kindergarten transition activities ease first-day fears

| Wednesday, March 26, 2014, 9:01 p.m.

The first day of kindergarten can be an exciting yet nerve-racking experience for students and parents.

For families in Ligonier Valley, a series of events aim to quell the anxiety.

Ligonier Valley School District's kindergarten transition events educate new students and parents about what to expect when school commences. With kindergarten registration approaching in April, families still have a few opportunities to take advantage of the program.

“These events are to ease families into the process of their child going to kindergarten in the fall,” said literacy coordinator Amy Brown, who assists with the events.

Since January, children have gathered at their future elementary schools twice for a tour of the buildings, a trip through the lunch line, meet-and-greets with teachers and several other activities, Brown said.

“It helps them become familiar with the building they will be attending,” Brown said. “They see the actual teachers who will be teaching them, so it's not a stranger that first day of school, and they get to meet the kids. It's a familiar face they can see those first few days of school.”

At each event, which are funded through a “Kindergarten Readiness and Transition” grant from the United Way, teachers give students an item relevant to their activities to take home, such as a books, math counters, pencil cases and dry-erase boards with markers, Brown said.

The events have made a “huge difference” for Beau and Jessica Robertson of Fairfield Township and their son, Jacob Robertson. Jessica Robertson said she feels much better about her son entering kindergarten, now that she has grown more familiar with the teachers and activities at Laurel Valley Elementary.“They went over what they actually do in kindergarten,” Robertson said. “I didn't go to Laurel Valley, but my husband did. It was nice to see where they will be at and who the teachers are.”

She said Jacob has definitely grown more familiar with his surroundings at the school since attending the events.

“Right when he walks in, he says, ‘Mom, that's where the library is,'” she said.

She has seen a boost in his confidence. At a recent event, instead of clinging to his mother, Jacob found his friends and went straight to the cafeteria for their trip through the lunch line.

“He was like, ‘Come on! Let's go. We can do this!'” Robertson said.

Robertson said introducing the students to teachers and staff helps to diminish their first-day fears.

“(Jacob) can walk in now and tell you who the principal is,” she said.

Jacob can hardly wait for his next trip to his future school.

“He actually asked when the next event is,” she said.

Kimberley Altimus, a kindergarten teacher at Laurel Valley Elementary School, said she has noticed a change in students' attitudes about starting school. She strongly recommends the events to parents who are unsure if they should enroll their child or wait another year.

“I see a huge benefit from it,” Altimus said. “The kids seem so much more relaxed when they come in and not as anxious as they seemed in the past.”

The events allow the parents to grow more comfortable with the school environment, according to Elaine Needham, a kindergarten teacher at R.K. Mellon Elementary.

“It relieves some of the stress that they're feeling, their worries about how school works and what to expect,” Needham said.

Those interested in learning more about the kindergarten transition events should email Amy Brown at or call R.K Mellon Elementary School at 724-238-5663 or Laurel Valley Elementary School at 724-235-2725.