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Parents who have children entering school for the first time this fall might be anxious over whether or not their children are fully prepared for this important milestone. Don’t worry. Some Upstate educators, who happen to be mothers of young children themselves, shared a few tips to help new-to-school parents make the transition easier for all.

Stay on top of registration and immunizations

According to Greenville County Schools, “Children who will be 5 years old on or before Sept. 1 of the current year must enroll in public or private kindergarten unless the parent or legal guardian signs a waiver.”

By now your child should be registered and enrolled, but if they aren’t, don’t panic. It’s not too late.

“We encourage anyone who is new to town or has moved this summer to register at the school where their child will attend school this year,” said Beth Brotherton, spokesperson for Greenville County Schools. “If they are unsure about zoning or have questions they can call our info line at 355-3100 or visit the GCS website.”

You can find enrollment forms and more on your school district’s website. You’ll need to present your child’s state-issued birth certificate, complete immunization certificate or exemption certificate provided by the health department, and two forms of proof of residence, such as a utility bill or mortgage or lease statement.

Not sure if your child has had the proper immunizations? State requirements for 2016 – 2017 are available online at SCDHEC.gov. Students entering 5K must have vaccinations for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis, polio, mumps and measles, hepatitis B and varicella.

Transportation

If your child is riding a bus to school, you must contact your child’s school to let them know and to receive the pickup and drop-off schedules. Make sure you discuss with your children safety rules, such as how to get in touch with you in case of an emergency, how to cross the street, and never to walk behind the bus.

If you’ll be driving and dropping off your child, it’s always a good idea to familiarize yourself with the school’s traffic patterns at least a day or two before the first day of school, according to Melissa Burns, principal at Sara Collins Elementary.

If you’re not sure, call your school and ask.

To label or not to label?

Many new parents go a little crazy labeling everything they send to school with their child, but some items shouldn’t be labeled, according to Shiree Turner-Fowler, a kindergarten teacher at Hollis Elementary and Greenville County Schools 2015 – 2016 Teacher of the Year.

“Sometimes it depends on the teacher, but generally labeling coats and personal things, such as lunchboxes, is always advised,” she said. “As far as classroom supplies, many teachers prefer that they not be labeled because those items are shared as a community.”

To be on the safe side, ask your child’s teacher before the first day of school.

Get to know your child’s teacher

Don’t wait until the first day of school to meet your child’s first teacher, both Burns and Turner-Fowler said. Attend the school’s meet and greet, which will be advertised on the school’s website.

“Building a strong relationship with teachers is important for the success of your child, but it can also put your mind at ease, especially if this is your first child and you’ve never dealt with teachers as a parent before,” Turner-Fowler said.

Burns said it’s helpful for new families to get to know the school before school starts so that both parents and their children don’t feel disoriented on the first day of school.

“That’s why we at Sara Collins open up our library four days a week during the summer,” she said. “We invite families to come in and get familiar with our teachers and school.”

Again, call or check on your school’s website for such opportunities. Burns said parents whose schedules conflict with back-to-school meet and greets can also schedule an appointment for a time that’s more convenient for them with enough notice to the teacher and school.

“Just call and ask,” she said.

It’s OK to be emotional

Turner-Fowler said every year some new parents get emotional when dropping their young kids off at school for the first time. Rest assured, it’s OK to feel an array of emotions.

“Before, I felt like there shouldn’t be a fuss, but now that I’m a mother of a 2-year-old, I completely understand,” she said. “This is a huge moment for their child. It’s monumental. It’s your child becoming a big boy or big girl. I think it’s healthy, and I think it’s OK to show your child that emotion.”

Simply make sure you reassure your child that the teacher you’re leaving him with will take care of him and that you will be back for him at the end of the day.

“Just know your baby will be well taken care of, and it’s going to take some time for adjustment,” she said. “That’s absolutely normal. We understand the first few days you might want to walk your child to class and be there, but after those first few days, you should let your children gain some independence by walking to class by themselves.”

Countdown to Kindergarten at TCMU

The Children’s Museum of the Upstate will host its annual Countdown to Kindergarten event 6 – 8 p.m. Aug. 4.

This free event is for rising kindergarten students and their families. As they countdown the first day of school, rising kindergarteners will:

  • Have access to Greenville community resources that support children
  • Carry their own lunch tray and learn lunchroom etiquette
  • Visit a mock kindergarten classroom and explore various subjects
  • Move and dance with the Carolina Dance Collaborative
  • Take home a braille name plate from the South Carolina Interagency Deaf/Blind Project
  • Receive a piggy bank and $5 for a Greenville Federal Credit Union bank account

Kids will also have the chance to meet Reedy from the Greenville Drive, Ronald McDonald and police officers from the Greenville City Police Department. For details or to RSVP, visit TCMUpstate.org.

Save the Date

South Carolina’s tax-free weekend is Aug. 5 – 7. It applies to school supplies, clothing and shoes, and computers and accessories.

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