Getting a head start for a successful school year

CES teacher Dana Janney was one of several kindergarten camp teachers who helped prepare “new-to-school” students for a successful year. (Contributed)

By MOLLIE BROWN / Community Columnist

Calera Elementary offered a week-long kindergarten camp to help familiarize students and parents with the school’s curriculum and instruction.

Principal Linda Chesler held a parent session the first day to discuss policies, independent skills with clothing, drop-off and pick-up lines and other procedures.

Assistant Principal Judy Weismann manages attendance, discipline and is liaison for English Language Learner (ELL) and special education. She stressed the importance for children to be rested and ready for school each morning.

“We discourage check-ins and check-outs,” Weismann said. “Students need to be here as much as possible. The only excused absences are sickness, bereavement and court. If a child has more than five unexcused absences, I have to report it to the court and I don’t like doing that. Skipping for birthdays and vacations hurts the whole school because our funding is based on a daily average attendance that’s above 95 percent.”

The children toured the school and played in the gym. They had crafts, music and reading activities. They played games such as shape sorting, alphabet bingo, number bingo and pattern boards/blocks. Teachers evaluated their skills to plan their individual academic needs.

“Camp is a wonderful readiness opportunity for the children,” Weismann said. “We practiced car pool lines, teaching them what to do when their number is called. Parents can help their child learn this number as well as their lunch number. Bus riders are assigned colors because it’s easier for them to remember.”

One student had a question teacher Brenda Glass had never been asked. “Maya asked if the school is haunted,” Glass said. “I answered ‘no,’ then asked why she thought that. Maya said ‘There are voices coming from the ceiling.’ I had to laugh before explaining the intercom.”

Registrar Jennifer Hebson reported 170 children are enrolled for kindergarten and 119 attended the camp. “We’ve held camp for many years,” Hebson said. “It’s a great opportunity for the children to adjust to the school structure. This year’s number is low. I can’t explain that.”

Weismann said toys should be left at home. Accessories such as jewelry are acceptable as long as they don’t cause disruptions. If a child has separation issues, she suggests putting a happy note or sticker in a backpack or lunchbox. Birthdays can be celebrated at snack time with a healthy treat which requires teacher approval.

Parents should read the student handbook before addressing teachers with questions. If administrative help is necessary, Weismann and Chesler said they are always happy to meet with parents.

Mollie Brown can be reached at