Many of Pierce County’s kindergarten students will get a gentle introduction to school this fall under a new statewide initiative.
At least two local school districts will offer parent-teacher conferences right at the start of the school year.
“Teachers are going to be meeting with individual parents to learn more about the child and their strengths, and help the transition process to kindergarten,” said Minh-Anh Hodge, director of early learning for Tacoma Public Schools.
In Tacoma, all kindergarten students will attend school for a half-day the first three school days – Sept. 5, 6 and 7 – to allow time for the conferences. In Lakewood’s Clover Park School District, only students in state-funded all-day kindergarten schools are affected.
Kindergarten students at Clover Park’s Custer, Dower, Hillside, Lakeview, Oakwood, Southgate, Tillicum and Tyee Park elementary schools will attend school for only a half-day from Sept. 5-14 to accommodate parent-teacher meetings.
The state initiative is the Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills. The goal of WAKIDS is to encourage strong school-family connections, information sharing between preschool and K-12 educators, and an inventory of the social, physical and academic skills all children bring to the start of their school career.
WAKIDS is aimed at students in state-funded full-day kindergarten classes, which include more than 200 high-poverty schools statewide.
Tacoma Public Schools supplements state funds with local dollars to provide all-day kindergarten in all its elementary schools.
Details of the half-day kindergarten introductory days are posted on the websites of both the Tacoma and Clover Park school districts. In addition, Tacoma families should receive more information in August about the start of school for kindergarteners and options for meeting with their child’s teacher.
In Tacoma, schools will release kindergarten students at 12:15 p.m., after providing lunch, on the three half-days. The school district will not provide midday transportation on those days. Parents can pick up their children or take advantage of after-school activities the district plans to provide at no cost.
Parents must let their child’s school know in advance if they want their child to stay after dismissal for those activities. Hodge said the district is looking at using a combination of nonclassroom teachers and volunteers to staff the three afternoons.
In Clover Park, parents will be contacted by their child’s teacher before the start of the school year to arrange a 30-minute conference. Participating Clover Park schools will dismiss kindergarten students at 11:30 a.m. on Sept. 5, 6, 7, 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14.