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Back to school: Start smart

School begins Sept. 4 in the Federal Way School District.

With the first day of school rapidly approaching, Federal Way school officials are offering ways beyond school supply shopping for parents and students to prepare.

Pre-kindergarten:

For students entering kindergarten, it is important for parents to realize that academic expectations of kindergarten students are higher than they have been in the past, said Mark Jewell, Federal Way School District chief academic officer.

“Kindergarten grade level expectations are more than what we recall being a social opportunity,” he said. “I think parents will really be surprised if they look at what schools are supposed to teach.”

In kindergarten, children should recognize letters, begin to sound out words, print letters accurately, count from one to 30 and complete a variety of other tasks.

Kindergarten also puts children in a social situation that may be new to them. Jewell recommends providing children with plenty of supervised social activities in the weeks leading up to school’s start. Public libraries are also a good resource for preparing young children for school, he said.

“Children should be introduced to books and understand that that’s a valuable community resource,” he said. “The children’s librarians are very skilled at meeting the needs of the children in our community for literacy development.”

For more information about expectations from kindergarten students in Federal Way, visit http://fwps.org/cur/plc/index.html.

Elementary school:

In elementary school, students will be better prepared for the start of school if they begin reading and reviewing math skills in the weeks leading up to Sept. 4, said Kent Cross, principal at Mirror Lake Elementary.

“If the kids haven’t been working on their reading skills, they really need to get moving on that,” Cross said.

Organized playtime also helps children adjust to the structure they will find when they return to the classroom, he said. Organized playtime means working to achieve a goal rather than typical child’s play.

Students also need to work on basic math computation skills, Cross said. If not practiced during the summer, students can lose between one to five months of math skills by the time they return in the fall.

Cross recommends the Web site www.coolmath.com for ideas on preparing students for elementary math.

The district also offers a Web site with do-at-home activities for helping children in each elementary grade level prepare for school at www.fwps.org/cur/piap/.

Middle school:

For middle school students, it is a good idea to practice setting aside study time each night, said Public Academy principal Kurt Lauer. Establishing a pattern now will make it easier to adjust to required homework time when school starts.

“Get that TV off and get them into the habit where they’re putting an hour or so each day into reading,” Lauer said.

Also, middle school students should be able to write a three-paragraph essay and be proficient at basic math computations.

“Every sixth-grader should be able to multiply any two numbers in this world and divide any two numbers,” Lauer said. They should also be able to compute fractions into decimals, he said.

“If they go into middle school and they don’t know their math, they’re going to be at a disadvantage for the rest of their school career,” he said.

Lauer recommends the book “What Every Kid Should Know in Sixth Grade.” The book, one in a series of books for each grade level, is available at Target, K-Mart and local bookstores.

High school:

In high school, student athletes are already preparing to come to school early and participate in sports. Football practice begins today, Aug. 15, and other fall sports begin Aug. 20.

Hopefully, student athletes have exercised and haven’t become sloths over the summer, said Federal Way High School principal Lisa Griebel.

“It’s frowned upon to throw up in practice on your first day,” she said.

High school students can prepare for the start of school by adjusting their sleep schedules, Griebel said.

“Teenagers, sometimes their body clocks are different,” she said.

“Maybe you should practice going to bed early and getting up before three o’clock,” Griebel tells her own high school-age children.

Students in advanced courses such as AP, IB or Cambridge should be completing their summer homework assignments. Other students will impress their teachers if they read a book over the summer, Griebel said.

Also, students who worked over the summer may need to give a two-week notice to their employer or change their hours of availability at work.

Vaccines:

Some school grades have new vaccine requirements this fall, the King County Health Department said in a press release.

Sixth-graders who have not been vaccinated for tetanus in the past five years should receive a tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis vaccine. Children entering kindergarten, first and sixth grade will need to have a varicella vaccine for chickenpox or document that they have had the disease.

For children entering kindergarten through 10th grade, three doses of hepatitis B vaccine are required. For children entering kindergarten through 12th grade, two doses each of measles, mumps and rubella are required.

For a complete list of required vaccinations and public health immunization clinic sites, visit www.metrokc.gov/health/immunization/school.htm or call (206) 296-4949. Public Health centers provide vaccines on a sliding fee scale.

Contact Margo Horner: mhorner@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.

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