Published on September 2nd, 2015 | by Millennium Magazine Staff


For District Five 4K students, tears and cheers are part of the first days of school

Pictured, a 4-year-old Nursery Road Elementary School student shares an item from her “me bag” on Aug. 27, the first day of school of many 4K students in District Five.

IRMO – Walking into a classroom for the very first time, Kevion Winston wasn’t quite sure about his first day of 4-year-old kindergarten. But after a few tears, a carton of chocolate milk and a pep talk, he slowly opened up to his new classmates and shared a few items from his “me bag.”

“He cried…but I think he’s excited now,” his mom Nicole Hagans said, admitting she too got a little emotional when she arrived at Nursery Road Elementary on August 27. “I know this is going to help him, and I know he’s excited. He’s nervous. I’m nervous…but I can’t wait to see what he says after school today.”

While most students in Lexington-Richland School District Five started school on Aug. 19, students in many of the district’s 4-year-old kindergarten programs started school a week later. Educators visited the students at their homes a few days prior to the 4K start date, talking with students and parents about what to expect this school year and how to prepare.

“For a lot of them this is their very first school experience, their very first experience in a classroom setting and their first experiences with other kids their age…we want it to be a good one,” said Jamila Anderson, a 4K teacher at Nursery Road Elementary. “We have to teach them everything about school, from classroom procedures to instructional lessons. It’s amazing to see how quickly they learn.”

Amid renewed focus nationwide on the value of 4K, the Lexington-Richland School District Five Board of Trustees approved a plan in the summer of 2013 to provide several additional needs-based 4-year-old kindergarten programs at several schools in the district. District Five also has a tuition-based EXCEL 4K program. Information about both programs is available at District Five schools and at the district website, and applications for the programs are accepted annually.

District Five Coordinator of Youth and Family Services Davida Price said, “Early education is important, and District Five has exceptional 4K classes district-wide to prepare students for success in academia and beyond. We know that there is a real value to high-quality early education, and our 4K programs are helping us put these students on a path to academic success long term.”

4K has ‘vast benefits’
At Irmo Elementary School, 4-year-old Jackson Baltzegar has just finished writing and counting the letters in his name. Now, it’s time to play.

Flapping his arms to imitate an insect in flight, he giggled and moved around the room as part of a late-August classroom exercise blending physical activity and a lesson on numbers.

“Look. I’m a bee,” he said, weaving in and out of the giddy group of his peers.

For EXCEL 4K teacher Carianne Johnson these simple movements by her class are a sign of growth. Students arrive on the first day with a wide array of social and academic abilities, showing ‘incredible’ growth in just a few days, she said.

“It’s incredible to see how far they’ve come in just a few days,” Johnson said, her students cheering with excitement at the announcement of the day’s next activity. “Just being in the school environment and being a part of the school community makes them that much more ready for kindergarten next year.”

District Five Director of Elementary Education Michael Guliano added, “The programs at District Five give children the opportunity to begin school a year earlier, which helps them get acquainted with the routines and procedures of school…The benefits are vast. These programs not only build upon the academic skill-set of each child, but also allow them to develop socially and emotionally through targeted instruction that meets their unique needs.”

Both programs offer certified teachers and standards-based instruction through structured curriculum. Movement, collaboration and hands-on learning take place on a daily basis to enhance student learning; and students also are exposed to special area classes including physical education, art and music, Guliano said.

At Nursery Road Elementary School, students in the 4K program practiced reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, entering the cafeteria and walking in a straight line “quietly” on their first day of school.

“We may have to practice a few times just to make sure we get it right,” said Jennifer Long, a 4K teacher at the school. “The first day of school brings new things to everyone in our room. We are all a little nervous. We are all a little excited…but by the end of the year, we look back at everything we’ve done and can’t believe what we’ve accomplished. It’s going to be another fun year in our 4K class.”

A few minutes into the first class activity, Kevion finally smiles. “I like (toy) cars,” he tells the class, who claps and cheers after he shares his “me bag.” “Cars…and chocolate milk.”


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