Kindergarten is a building-block year in youngsters’ lives, says Lakeridge Elementary Principal Heidi Christensen.
They begin connecting with their classmates and teachers while forming strong bonds with neighbors whose kids attend the same schools, will play on their same sports teams and will possibly be part of their lives for the forthcoming 13 years in Mercer Island schools.
“We have a lot of families that stay with us for a long time,” said Christensen, adding that the Mercer Island School District’s solid staff and PTA understands and knows the community well and thrives on unifying students and parents.
For next year’s new crop of Mercer Island kindergartners and their parents, the journey will begin during a Zoom information night from 6-7 p.m. on Jan. 25.
Principals of each elementary school — Lakeridge, Island Park, Northwood and West Mercer —- will host their respective events and will be joined by parents of current kindergartners to share their experiences and answer questions. For information, visit https://www.mercerislandschools.org/Domain/2340. Grade K-12 registration for the 2022-23 school year begins on Jan. 26.
West Mercer parent and PTSA family involvement coordinator Kelly Piha will participate in that school’s event by giving some insight into the kindergarten realm. Her son currently attends kindergarten and her daughter is a third-grader.
Piha got the proverbial kindergarten ball rolling for new students last summer with a series of playdates at the school. Kids and parents connected for the first time and that helped set the stage for familiarity — with other students and the school itself — when classes began at the start of September. Amid all the chaos of kids running around, Piha halted the action for a bit to have kids state their names and favorite colors to bring them even closer.
Since the pandemic made for a disjointed year, Piha opened the playdates for new families in all grades to get their footing in the school community.
Piha said that they’ll touch upon the schools’ COVID-19 safety protocols — including desk setups in classrooms and lunch/snack time scenarios — during the information nights.
Nikki Ahrenholz, a parent of two current Island Park students, will have a kindergartner beginning classes next school year. One thing she’s curious about is the status of the schools’ curriculum amid all the changes during the pandemic.
Ahrenholz, who is a physician, knows that everyone has been experiencing stress during the pandemic and that parents have worries about positive COVID cases in the schools.
“I feel like the schools’ safety measures really are helping a lot, as best as we can during this super contagious period, so that does make me feel a lot better,” she said.
Added Christensen: “We have an awesome group of teachers district wide. They’re really prioritizing the students’ health and safety. COVID safety first, but also managing to keep right at the top of that list, moving their education forward.”
With the upcoming information nights on tap, Christensen said they’ll be discussing how parents can prepare their kids for the first day of school, and relay information about connecting with PTAs, parent/teacher/student conferences and more.
One of the main goals, Christensen added, will be “teaching them to be part of a classroom and an elementary school student and joining the community.”