When I was five years old, I showed up to for kindergarten orientation at the wrong school. Yep. My parents, both well-educated, working professionals, were new to the community, having moved to the Shenandoah Valley for my dad’s job as a minister the year before. I was their first child and this was their introduction to the public school system. Our house sat in between two zones, and my parents were told by trusted church members that I’d go to Woodrow Wilson Elementary School. They registered me, and no one at the school caught the error.
We attended orientation, met my teacher, and even located my cubby, with “Rebekah” spelled out on a duck figurine. After a warm welcome from the principal, we were directed to the transportation office, where we learned there was no bus route to our house. I was supposed to attend a different school. As my mom tells it, she was exhausted, with three kids under 5, and this news was enough to bring her to tears. “But, she already has her name on a duck!” she cried at the bewildered transportation officer. It’s not that she doubted the quality of the other school, she had just gotten pretty attached to the idea of me going to this school. Somehow the mix-up was eventually resolved and I was able to stay at Wilson Elementary, but at the time, I’m sure it seemed like a pretty unsuccessful start to my school career.
Flash forward twenty-some years, and part of my job is to raise awareness about the importance of kindergarten registration. Go figure!
In the Metro Richmond region, nearly 13,000 children enter kindergarten each year. And while more than 8,000 are registered on-time in the spring, there are still many students who aren’t registered until late summer, or worse, after school starts.
Registering on-time isn’t just about getting your paperwork to the school, it’s about school readiness. Kindergarten registration provides an opportunity for parents to meet school staff, tour the school, and learn about additional programs and services available to their children. It gives school staff the time to plan so they can best meet the needs of incoming students, which is particularly important for our school districts serving high numbers of students living in poverty or with special needs.
United Way, in partnership with Smart Beginnings Greater Richmond, supports the regional Kindergarten Registration Campaign, an effort to raise awareness about school readiness and to drive parents to register on one common day.
On Thursday, April 14 of this year, 15 school divisions in our region – that’s 152 elementary schools – will hold kindergarten registration. Here’s a link with more details on the campaign, as well as tips for parents to help their kids get ready for school. Help us get the word out, by sharing this post and link! You can also help kids get excited about school by donating school supplies between now and April 6 or volunteering to package school supply kits on April 7 with United Way. Learn more here!
I’m not one to extol the virtues of social media, but if the internet, Facebook, and Twitter had been widely used in 1988, my parents might have had the information they needed to register me at the right school. I probably would have a selfie next to my personalized cubby to include in this post as evidence. Instead, this photo from my first day of kindergarten will have to do.