Get ready to sharpen that pencil bouquet because the start of the new school year is just around the corner, and the smell of new school supplies is in the air. As schools prepare to receive students for a fresh start to learning, there are several ways parents can help their kids tap into their unique learning rhythm.

St. Vrain Valley School District Area Assistant Superintendent Dina Perfetti-Deany recommended starting conversations about the school year well before the semester starts.

“It is important to talk with our children about what they look most forward to about school, and help them plan for how to handle the parts they are unsure of,” Perfetti-Deany said. “Most importantly, be positive and express confidence. With the help of your encouragement, planning, and assurances, the start of the school year can feel like a celebration.”

Helping children and teens get familiar with their school grounds, transportation and even teachers (if possible) before the school year begins can also help ease the transition, according to Ruth Godberfforde, the Director of Admissions and Advancement at Boulder Valley Waldorf School in Niwot.

“We have lots of back to school events,” Godberfforde said. “Parents get to know each other and get connected to their teachers. So [we organize] playdates and picnics and times on campus for the parents as well as the children to get to know each other.”

And if students can’t meet the teacher until the first class bell rings, still talk about their teacher’s role and how to relate to them. She also recommended a few concrete school prep practices, such as driving the route to school a few days before the new year starts, and talking about how drop off and pick up will work. Have students pick out a first day outfit, and talk through expectations.

“Another fun thing I know parents like to do is to get the backpack ready [early]. Consider school lunches together. Include your child if they are motivated by those physical and tangible things,” Godberfforde said.

At Prospect Ridge Academy, a K-12 school in Broomfield, teachers start the school year by helping students rebuild academic stamina, according to Executive Director April Wilkin.

“Teachers at all levels do a good job of making sure to be transparent with students about what to expect for the day, and what the routine will look like,” Wilkin said.

Parents, in turn, should also talk with their kids about their day.

“If they are in high school, help them think about rough transitions throughout the day. It may just be physical distance from class to class, or certain subjects that are harder for them,” she said.

Wilkin also recommended prepping for school the night before. Get backpacks ready, pack lunches, and have kids pick out what to wear. Talk through any unique schedule elements for the next day, such as appointments or afterschool activities. For older students, check on any outstanding assignments. Also, craft a morning routine.

“Have some type of consistency in the morning for what they can expect for breakfast, and a certain spot where they can find all of their [school] materials,” Wilkin said. “I have two very different children, ages 12 and 9, but we have tried to iron out what they need as different students. One of my children needs 10 reminders to wake up, and the other one is up right away but then needs something to do until we leave for school.”

Navigating Health Challenges at School
With many school activities returning to pre-pandemic levels, area schools will all have unique protocols and approaches to keep students in the classroom.

Stephanie Faren is the Director of Health Services for Boulder Valley School District. She expressed that BVSD will continue to follow state guidelines, and they will work with local public health agencies around disease surveillance and family notifications.

“As always, the most important things we can do [are] get vaccinated, stay home when feeling unwell, and get tested if exposed or symptomatic,” Faren said.

She also recommended scheduling routine health checkups.

“We know that many families have postponed routine health checkups and vaccinations during the pandemic … now is the best time to get caught up,” Faren said. “Students entering preschool need physicals before starting and students participating in athletics will need a physical clearing them to participate. Per Colorado law, students must have school-required vaccinations or a current exemption to attend school. Families should ensure their children are up-to-date on all state-required immunizations, make a plan to get the required immunizations, or have a current certificate of exemption.”

Additionally, Wilkin expressed that families really do need to prioritize having their students in the classroom for as many school days as possible.

“As parents are gearing up, try to get back into the mindset that school is where learning is happening,” Wilkin said. “If students are missing little things here and there, they add up … the best way to catch up is to be at school.”

By Rhema Zlaten for Raised in the Rockies