A big day for Class of 2031: Next week's kindergarten registration gets parents started on transition into school

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When it comes time for parents to send their first-born child off to kindergarten it can be sad, exciting, fun, scary and nerve wracking, all at the same time.

Alexandria kindergarten teacher Tom Miller, who has been teaching at Lincoln Elementary School for 11 years, admitted even he struggled when it came time for his son to start school.

"It's new and different and they are moving on and reaching that next milestone," Miller said. "There can be a lot of mixed emotions for parents."

But Miller said the Alexandria School District does a great job of helping parents and students in the process and breaks it all down to help everyone prepare for the big day.

Next week, the graduating class of 2031 will be registering as kindergarteners for the 2018-2019 school season that will start this fall. Registration dates for the Alexandria School District are set for Tuesday, Feb. 20 and Thursday, Feb. 22.

Parents will receive the paperwork they will need to fill out and a checklist to go through. Registration is a great time for parents to come, meet the teachers and ask questions.

"We are used to lots of questions. We are here to help parents — and students — through this process," Miller said. "Sending your child to kindergarten is a big decision for families and parents can struggle on whether or not their child is ready. When you decide the time is right, then just go for it. Whatever decision the parent makes is the right decision."

Miller said the best things parents can do to get their child ready for kindergarten is to provide as many experiences — reading to them, playing, coloring, doing arts and crafts, exploring — as

possible. Exposing kids to a lot of different situations is key, he said.

Veteran advice

Josh and Molly Eken of Alexandria have been through the kindergarten process twice already and will be sending their third daughter, Hazel, to kindergarten this fall. Their daughter, Lily, is 8 and in third grade while their daughter, Claire, 6, is in the first grade. They also have 2-year-old Ruby, who has a couple more years before she gets to go to kindergarten.

Molly Eken said when they sent Lily to kindergarten, she remembers the mixture of feelings, although she mostly remembers being excited.

"Our oldest was a little more tentative, so I was a little nervous to see how she would like it," Eken said. "But she came home on her first day full of excitement and that calmed any of my nervous feelings."

She said sending Hazel off to kindergarten isn't as nerve wracking as it was with Claire.

"Hazel and I have talked a lot this year about the fact that she gets to go to kindergarten in the fall and she is ready," Eken said. "She is so eager to go and often asks when she gets to start and ride the bus with her sisters."

Eken said parents should go to all informational meetings, such as registration, as well as open houses to get a better understanding about what to expect.

"I would also say to just try and express a positive, enthusiastic attitude to your kids when you talk about their upcoming year," said Eken. "If we show them we are nervous or sad, they can feel that and they may get more nervous. Try to stay positive."

And now that they have already sent two daughters to kindergarten and are about to send their third, Molly Eken said it has gotten easier.

"We are already comfortable with the school and the staff and we know that our daughters are in good hands," she said.

Varying stages

Miller said that the beauty of kindergarten is that teachers get "all these great kids at varying stages of development with differing abilities and backgrounds. Then, we get to know them really well and learn their personal needs and provide support and experiences to meet those needs."

Kindergarteners may start a school year not knowing how to read or they're shy and not very social, but by the end of the school year, students are reading and interacting with their classmates.

"Everyday in kindergarten, there are those light bulb moments for my students and it is so cool to see," Miller said. "It's definitely worth showing up for."

Great place to explore

Mali and Eric Morken of Alexandria will be sending their first daughter, 5-year-old Aubree, to kindergarten this year and are excited for her to have the experience. Mali Morken said she loved school and still has many fond memories of kindergarten.

"My best friend in kindergarten is still one of my closest friends today," Morken said.

However, Morken said sending Aubree to kindergarten is bittersweet.

"She's my first baby and the idea that she's big enough to be off on her own to kindergarten makes me a little sad," she said. "I just want time to slow down a little so I don't miss anything."

Having their daughter in preschool helped them ease into the school routine, too, Morken said, and added that the first day of kindergarten drop-off should be a little easier since "we've had a couple of first days of school already."

Morken said her daughter is "very inquisitive and has a great imagination" and that she feels kindergarten will be a great place for her to explore.

Kindergarten registration dates

• Tuesday, Feb. 20 at 4 and 5:30 p.m. — Lincoln, Woodland and Voyager

• Tuesday, Feb. 20 at 5 p.m. — Carlos

• Tuesday, Feb. 20 at 6:30 p.m. — Miltona

• Thursday, Feb. 22 at 5:30 p.m. — Garfield

Kindergarten Sneak-A-Peek

This event is for parents and their future kindergartener. Parents and students will visit a classroom and experience typical activities, which will showcase what kindergarten is all about. Parents will have an opportunity to talk with the principal, teacher and also turn in any additional registration paperwork. Sneak-A-Peak times and locations:

• 4 p.m., Tuesday, May 8, Lincoln, Voyager and Woodland

• 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, May 8, Carlos, Voyager and Woodland

• 6 p.m., Tuesday, May 8, Lincoln

• 1 p.m., Thursday, May 10, Garfield

• 11:15 a.m., Friday, May 1, Miltona

District 206 Elementary Schools

• Woodland Elementary School
1410 South McKay Avenue, Alexandria, MN 56308
320-762-3300

• Carlos Elementary School
20 North Douglas Avenue, Carlos, MN 56319
320-852-7181

• Garfield Elementary School
303 Sanstead Street East, Garfield, MN 56332
320-762-3350

• Lincoln Elementary School
1120 Lark Street, Alexandria, MN 56308
320-762-3320

• Miltona Science Magnet Elementary
271 Dale Avenue, Miltona, MN 56354
877-736-1419

• Voyager Elementary School
203 Voyager Drive, Alexandria, MN 56308
320-762-3325