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Kindergarten transition

Today we have Kindergarten Open House. Which is the chance for incoming students to visit their school for the first time. All the teachers will be there--even though we won't find out who our son has until August--along with support staff like librarians, the gym teachers, etc.. There will even be school spirit clothing on sale along with members of the PTO available to answer questions. Our school happens to be a bit of Holy Grail within our school district (families actually move to be within our boundary) because of the possibility of getting a lottery spot in our Spanish Immersion program. It's a multi-year commitment to spending half-days using Spanish-only. All students get some Spanish, however, so even if we're not one of the immersion classes he'll still get some instruction.

But keep in mind today is only one step of a long process. Yesterday it was registration.

The school district has a whole list of required documents...
Requirements for Registration
  • Student’s official birth certificate
  • Parent/guardian picture ID
  • Current physical/immunization record on the Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS) form
  • Illinois State “Good Standing” transfer form (only required of students transferring from an Illinois public school, grades one through eight)
  • Custody documents (if applicable): court order, agreement, judgment, or decree that gives custody of the child to any person
AND any ONE of the following:
  • Current mortgage/closing documents
  • Property tax bill or 1098 form
  • Signed and dated lease with proof of most recent rent payment
  • Letter of residency from landlord in lieu of a lease (form 5111-F1)
  • Letter of residency to be used when the person seeking to enroll a student lives with a resident (form 5111-F2)
Plus any THREE of the following that must show the current address:
  • Illinois vehicle registration
  • Illinois driver’s license/ Illinois State ID
  • Vehicle sticker receipt
  • Voter registration card
  • Current cable or credit card bill
  • Current public aid card
  • Current proof of homeowners/renters insurance
  • Current utility bill (gas, electric, or water)
  • Current bank statement
  • Current piece if U.S. mail received at residence
That "current immunization record" was what tripped us up at our appointment. (Keep in mind that we'd already filled out an online form with detailed information and scheduled a slot to drop off documents.) I called our doctor in the morning to ask for a copy of his physical and the doctor's office told me that they wait and give the school a copy of his 5 year old examination. Since he's not 5 yet, I scheduled an appointment for July and assumed the school would want the newest version of the medical form either right before or when school starts. Wrong. After all the other paperwork was filed, I had to head back to the doctor's office to pick up his records. They'd initially printed off just a copy of his vaccines...but I wanted to be absolutely sure so I pointed out that the school district wants the DHS state form of his 4 year old exam. The office staff at the doctor was scratching their heads, too. Keep in mind that my son is currently enrolled within the district in preschool. So, technically, his current school nurse has a copy of his 4 year old physical form already. They can't scan it and e-mail it over?!

At the conclusion of the paperwork appointment, you're given a sheet of paper explaining that your student needs to schedule a Kindergarten Readiness Snapshot. Fill out your availability the first week of June and your student will be assessed by early childhood staff to determine whether his/her skills are appropriate while you do a parent survey of home habits and behaviors. Some students may be pulled aside for a special session before school starts. The irony with the readiness test is that it's going to be my son's current preschool teacher administering it and she's already told me that he's ready and will pass. So it's a mere formality at this point. And an annoying extra level of red tape at that.

Oh, did I mention that his current teacher also has a transition parent-teacher conference that we also attend this week? In addition to him needing a dental and vision exam. Plus, there has been an optional workshop on ideas to get your child ready for entering Kindergarten.

On one hand, I appreciate the level of attention being given to families. We have a good (and expensive) district. But on the other hand, it's overkill. And a waste of money and resources. And frustrates families who feel like they're jumping through hoops. And it's way too much time and energy for families to fill out all these documents and spend time making appointments and scheduling time in the middle of summer when people are on vacation or have activities. This is public school. Open to all. It's good to not let anybody slip through the cracks. But it's also probably best to not have parents so angry at the system before they're even in class that they have a skeptical attitude about starting the school year. This is our 3rd district school in 3 years...and we've been to one good one, one less-than-friendly one. I'm hoping today we get off to a good start in the new environment.

The school district could certainly do a better job of making families feel welcome by streamlining the registration process to one short visit with minimal paperwork.