New kindergartners nearing big day |

New kindergartners nearing big day

Mary Thompson

It’s one of those memories that can stick in a person’s mind for the remainder of adult life – the first day of school.

With a backpack full of paper and crayons, 5-year-olds at South Shore this fall will make their classroom debuts. For some, the new faces and unfamiliar surroundings are terrifying. For others, it’s a welcome change.

Kira Smith, who celebrated her fifth birthday Sunday, said she’s excited.

“I’m going to meet new kids,” she said. “And I’m not afraid because I’ve been there before because my sister goes to school there.”

Cailin Stephenson, who is “5 and 7/8,” said she can’t wait to see all the new kids, either.

“They’re nice and I like them,” she said from the Lake Tahoe Community College Child Development Center. “And, we’ll learn to read.”

Development Center Assistant Director Jill Madley said children who have been enrolled in preschool or day care can have an advantage because they’ve learned to socialize.

“(At the Development Center ) they’re fully prepared to enter kindergarten,” she said. “Even if parents don’t want their children in a school setting at a young age they could get the same socialization benefits from play groups.”

While the children may be ready to face the challenge, Jackie Nelson, principal of Tahoe Valley Elementary school, said often times it’s the parents who are not.

“It’s an important transition time for both the children and the parents,” she said. “It’s a start of a whole new time in their lives.”

And if parents are upset, children may pick up on those emotions.

“It’s a normal thing for parents to feel some anxiety,” said Zephyr Cove Elementary Principal William “Robbie” Robison. “The children can sense that, they know when mom is upset.”

Both principals said there are a number of measures parents can take to ease the pain of changing scenes.

Nelson said it’s best to introduce your child to the campus before school starts, when the hallways are quiet.

“Before the first day, bring your child to the playground and take them inside the school so they know what to expect,” said Nelson. “Also, if it’s possible, take your child to school on the first day instead of making them take the bus.”

Both school districts, Lake Tahoe Unified and Douglas County, have kindergarten orientation meetings scheduled before the first day of class which is Aug. 31 for Nevada schools at Lake Tahoe and Sept. 7 for students in the California schools at the lake.

Robison said the orientation is essential for having a successful school experience.

“It’s a chance for students and parents to tour the school, see the classrooms and get some of those fears behind them,” he said.

Robison also said if the introduction tactics don’t work and your child is still fearing the change, Zephyr Cove Elementary keeps a counselor close to the kindergarten classes on the first few days of school.

“Typically, we get some children who cry, but usually that doesn’t last more than a day or two,” he said. “Five-year-olds tend to adjust much easier than us older folks.”

Kindergarten orientation:

Zephyr Cove Elementary: Aug. 27 at 1 p.m.

Parents can call their South Lake Tahoe school office for individual dates:

Al Tahoe Elementary: 543-2310

Bijou Community School: 543-2337

Meyers Elementary School: 543-2371

Sierra House Elementary: 543-2327

Tahoe Valley Elementary: 543-2350

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