Ready to Jump into Kindergarten!

It’s never too early to get a jump on education.

And that’s again the goal this coming summer, as the Fayette County School Corporation and Fayette County Foundation are teaming once more for the third year of their successful “Jump Start” program, which assists incoming kindergarten students in the FCSC learn the routine of a kindergarten day and meet their teachers, along with what will be expected from them both academically and behaviorally, during a two-week span in July at the students’ respective elementary schools.

The program, which also provides free transportation, breakfast and lunch to the students participating, is funded through the FCF’s Education Endowment Fund, and has seen growing numbers since it first began in 2015. The program had 158 students enrolled in 2016, up from the 140 during its inaugural year, with the classes being led by several of the kindergarten teachers at each FCSC elementary school.

Fayette Central Elementary Principal Kay Rowley, who has been among the FCSC educators at the forefront of the program since its conception, said the school corporation is very excited to be able to provide a third year of “Jump Start” to local incoming kindergarteners for the 2017-18 school year, and that the impact the program has made on how those new students transition not only academically, but socially and behaviorially, into the school setting has been quite evident.

“We’re very excited,” she said Wednesday. “It’s the third year and I think we’ve gotten a little bit better with it each year. Last year, of all the kindergarteners in the corporation, there were only 56 who didn’t attend. I thought that was really, really impressive for us. It was nice last year because when parents came in to register their students for kindergarten, that’s when they signed up for it, and we didn’t have people asking ‘what is this?’ They seemed to know about it before they came and they wanted to do it. So I thought that was really exciting, too.”

This year’s “Jump Start” theme will incorporate nursery rhymes, a departure from the theme of the previous two years, which revolved around “The Wizard of Oz.”

“We’ve decided it’s time to leave ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ and go to something else,” Rowley chuckled.

While the two-week program is designed to be enjoyable for those incoming kindergarteners, it’s also geared at being instructional, something FCSC Assistant Superintendent Kim Corsaro said has made a big impact over the past couple of years with students transitioning into kindergarten.

Corsaro, before becoming assistant superintendent for the FCSC, saw the impact firsthand as principal at Maplewood Elementary School.

“I was able to see more this year than I have in the past, only because when you first start something, you don’t really have much data to support anything or what it used to be,” she said. “But I really felt like this year, coming into kindergarten, we had less transitional issues such as parents standing at the door waiting for their child. And the relationship piece is just so much stronger when (the children) get that jump start into kindergarten.

“And just their ability to follow basic procedures and expectations,” she continued. “We really noticed a big difference this year, and I think part of that was our current kindergarten teachers taught Jump Start for the first time … they started in kindergarten with their teacher, they built that relationship and they followed the same expectations and procedures. They hit the road running from Day One, and I think that’s a huge benefit of the program from an administrator’s perspective.”

The positive affect the “Jump Start” program has had on students is also quite visible on the front lines by kindergarten teachers within the FCSC, such as Fayette Central Elementary’s Chelsea Lucas.

The impact isn’t solely limited to the students, either, per Lucas. It also helps benefit the teachers.

“Thinking about just the basic, daily procedures in kindergarten, structure is just so important, especially when they’re so little,” she said. “Getting the time to just really work on that, and make sure they know how to sit, know how to walk. Especially these kids that didn’t go to preschool, who have no idea how to do those things … that makes a huge difference, because it takes a long time for those little ones to really feel comfortable.

“Very little tears or anything like that with the Jump Start,” she added. “The parents are comfortable because they’ve met us already, we’ve already given them information about the classrooms, so the first they they’re like ‘here you go, go on to class.’ It’s good to have that time within those two weeks. The relationship piece, it’s so relaxing at Jump Start. We just get that time to bond with my own kids. I get that time to bond with them, learn about their lives, and those things we do during the school year, but there’s not as much time because there’s so much academics we have to get in. They’re not stressed, I’m not stressed, and once school starts, we can go right into it and do some things.”

Ashley Baker, a social worker at Frazee, Grandview and Everton elementaries who also participates in the program, stressed the importance of how “Jump Start” benefits the students’ social skills.

“One of the main things I assist with is the social skills,” she said. “How to sit, how to walk, and it’s also looking at those behaviors of ‘we don’t hit somebody when we get upset.’ Those kinds of things. They’re starting to learn those skills so they’re not as big of issues when the school year starts. And also looking at their making connections. They’re making a connection with me – ‘This is someone we can go to if we need help with something’ – and then even if their classroom teacher wasn’t their teacher during Jump Start, they still have a familiar face still in that same role. So they’ve made that connection.

“Another aspect is the parents are making connections,” Baker continued. “So some of these parents are the first-time parents of a kindergartener. They haven’t had any kids go through the school system, and some of them have had kids go through the school system. So when they’re connecting with each other, then I feel like they’re learning from each other and able to help each other out more.”

Much like last year, the program will host a “Chips and Chat” workshop for those parents, Baker added, which will help inform the parents even more of the “Jump Start” program before it takes place in July.

From the view of the Fayette County Foundation and its program director, Katherine Good, the program has grown to be quite successful and is having the impact on early education, something the FCF has been driven to address over the past few years.

“Three years ago, we started out on this venture which was unprecedented for us. We funded salaries, we did continually funding, so for us – the first year – it was kind of like, let’s see where this goes,” she said. “We were astounded the first year with how successful Jump Start was and we only had about 100 kids that didn’t attend. So this year, it’s all about building on those successes. It’s building on those attendance successes – not just getting every kid here, but every kid here every day. Building on what (Kim Corsaro) was saying about getting those kindergarten teachers into the room, because look at the difference it made this second year. When they can see those intangible things that a test can’t show you … it’s just building on all those social things that lead to academic success. It’s just building on all these successes.

“I’m really excited to see what this third year brings,” Good added. “It seems we’re just going to keep building momentum and I think we are a small enough community where we can make a dent. We can reach our earliest learners, and they are our most important learners. This sets them up for the next 13 years of their life.”

The FCSC cannot express how much the program has benefit its goal of educating local students, either, Corsaro concluded.

“We appreciate the continued support of the Foundation, and that they recognize the importance of Jump Start,” she said.

Registration for the 2017 “Jump Start” program will take place during kindergarten registration for the FCSC, which occurs Tuesday, April 11 and Wednesday, April 12, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the incoming kindergarteners’ respective elementary school.

For more information about the free “Jump Start” program, contact Kay Rowley at 765-825-6261 or Cindy Young at 765-825-2178.

‘Jump Start’ registration

When: Tuesday, April 11; Wednesday, April 12. Both days from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. (coincides with 2017-18 kindergarten registration for the Fayette County School Corporation)

Where: Everton, Frazee, Grandview, Fayette Central, Eastview, Maplewood elementary schools.

‘Chips and Chat’ parent workshop

When: Tuesday, April 25, 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Where: John H. Miller Community Center, Roberts Park, Connersville

Open to all parents of potential “Jump Start” participating students. Refreshments provided.

‘Jump Start’ program

When: July 17-July 28, 8:30 a.m. to noon

Where: Incoming kindergarten students’ respective elementary schools (Frazee, Grandview, Everton, Fayette Central, Eastview, Maplewood)

Free transportation, free breakfast and free lunch also provided to participating students.

For more information on the program, contact Kay Rowley at 765-825-6261 or Cindy Young at 765-825-2178.

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