Last year, when Carol Gollihur brought her son Heath to his first day of kindergarten at Tacomas Grant Center for the Expressive Arts, he had one comment after the day ended: It was too long.
This year, her daughter Tori is the newest Grant Grizzly in the family. And on Wednesday the first day of school for Tacoma and many other Pierce County school districts it was a half day for Tacoma kindergartners.
Our kids have never been in preschool, Gollihur said Wednesday morning. "I love (the half day). I wish they would have done it last year.
All kindergarten programs in Tacoma are full-day programs. But this year, the first three days of the school year are cut short for kindergartners.
The short sessions are designed to ease the newest students into a school routine and to give teachers time in the afternoons to meet with parents and students. They are using a new state program called WAKIDS for Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills.
The goal is to encourage teachers and parents to get to know each other right from the start, as well as give teachers a way to assess the social, physical and academic skills their students bring to the classroom.
Grant Principal Jennifer Cooper said WAKIDS is an important way for teachers to build relationships with parents.
You are your childs best advocate, she said. I need you to have a conversation with us so we can support your childs growth, both socially and academically.
Grant kindergarten teacher Megan Clark learned plenty after spending her first afternoon talking with kids and parents.
I have a good, communicative group of kids, she said. They are chock full of information,
WAKIDS gives teachers a booklet that guides them through a series of interview questions with students.
Students start with basic questions their name, special people in their lives and family members. Then comes the fun stuff: teachers ask about favorite foods, favorite books, toys and games. They also ask about what kids might do when they are excited, frustrated, hungry or sad.
On Wednesday, Clarks students were eager to share.
An animated Ava Hornbeck used her fingers to represent family members as she acted out the story of a time they encountered a bear.
Killian Brennan wanted Clark to know that his Teddy bear was safe at home.
Because I love him so much, he said.
Lili Moulongo held her Barbie doll while she talked in detail about her familys chickens, their cat and their bilingual French-English household.
The chickens lay not baby eggs, but just plain eggs for breakfast, Lili said.
And she hasnt forgotten about Grants special focus on the arts. She told her teacher she loves to draw, and she cant wait to spend time in the schools dance studio.
Parents sat in on the interviews and added information about their kids.
Clark learned who has a hard time with transitions, who doesnt like to go to bed at night, who cries when theyre sad and who doesnt like to clean up.
Lilis dad, Frederick Moulongo, said he enjoyed the WAKIDS interview.
Its fun to have this on the first day of school, he said, adding that the first day was exciting and emotional all at the same time.
Avas mom, Wanda Hornbeck, likes the half days to start.
Its a good transition, she said.
And Killians mom, Chanda Brennan, said she enjoyed being able to interact with her sons teacher on the first day.
Clark, who has been teaching for more than three years, said its important for kids to see that she and their parents are on the same team.
Its amazing what you can learn just by watching kids, she said. Its nice being able to sit down and communicate with a child and parent.