It may seem early to be thinking about the start of a new school year, but now is the time for parents to take a deep breath and register their youngsters for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten.
For pre-kindergarten teacher Melanie Enderle, who teaches at Heritage Elementary school in Huntingdon, ensuring parents are involved with the introductory steps to schooling is essential. The K-4 program that has been introduced by the provincial government encourages different ways of bringing parents into contact with their children’s schools. Enderle, who teaches with Janet Morrison, says she appreciates being part of these meetings which aim to build stronger relationships between families and schools while affirming parent’s essential role in their child’s academic success from day one.
“We focus on fun events,” suggests Enderle, saying they have held a “Donuts with Dad” activity in the past, and this past December parents were invited for an afternoon of skating as well as a Christmas activity that involved gingerbread-house decorating and included a free family portrait by a professional photographer.
In fact, having fun is part of the K-4 curriculum. “We learn through play,” says Enderle, noting her classroom is very hands-on, and “We are not afraid to get dirty.” This approach allows the teachers to introduce new concepts while meeting their young students “where they are at” in terms of their development. “It is not a boring job,” she says, admitting the school’s youngest pupils keep her and Morrison on their toes.
Heritage was the first elementary school within the New Frontiers School Board (NFSB) to run a 4-year-old kindergarten program after studies demonstrated that children from disadvantaged areas may be less prepared to start school. The bilingual program has now been extended to all NFSB elementary schools. “We now have an expertise in working with young children,” says NFSB director general Rob Buttars, highlighting the efforts made by professional and caring staff over the years in designing welcoming and inclusive programs.
Within the schools, the younger students are quickly integrated into the warm family environment promoted by the NFSB and especially Heritage Elementary. “It is our house,” says principal Collin Thomas, who adds that “The school belongs to the staff, the parents, our families, and our kids.” He notes the socio-emotional connection generated through the “our house” motto works to strengthen the academic structure within the school as well, where students’ academic and social needs are prioritized.
Registration period now open
Parent involvement with school starts with registration. “Our staffing process starts now,” says Thomas, acknowledging the public is less aware of the importance in registering students as early as possible. “We are staffed based on the number of students in the school,” he adds, while explaining how late registrations can lead to uncertainty and added stress at the start of the school year.
Kindergarten registration is now open until February 10 at all NFSB elementary schools. Buttars suggests parents who are on the fence over registering their child should not hesitate to call their local school to book an appointment and ask questions. School contact information can be found online at nfsb.qc.ca.