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Welcome to kindergarten!

Practice run gets little ‘geniuses’ ready for their first day


Teacher Amber Middlemiss helps student Dryon Smith with a puzzle during Play Time

Jake Cabada had a mighty start to kindergarten. While visiting his Gladiola Elementary classroom for the first time, he stood up tall, a serious look on his face, flexed his arm muscles and proclaimed, “I’m strong!”

Around him, his new classmates looked around curiously, chatted with new friends and some even fought back a few tears. It was a practice run for their first day of school, and the beginning of their K-12 journey.

The district’s four elementary schools — Gladiola, West, Oriole Park and Parkview — hosted the two-hour Kindergarten Smart Start on the Friday before school started Tuesday, Aug. 20 to help the little ones feel comfortable with their new school.

Students Josiah Kink and Christian Aleman play together

After arriving by bus, they met their teachers, toured the building, sat “criss-cross applesauce” on the classroom rug, ate breakfast and visited the cafeteria.

They also received words of encouragement from their parents. “Can you go look for your name?” dad Victor Cabrera asked a shy Jaden Cabrera. Moments later, Jaden located the owl-shaped name tag on his new cubby and stood by it smiling.

Longtime kindergarten teacher Rebecca Schaffer said Smart Start serves as a great warm-up for beginning full-day school.

Teacher Karen Ward meets her new kindergartners

“The first day is chaos, so it’s a little more calming,” she said. “It acclimates them to their new environment. They meet their teacher, so it’s a familiar face on the first day.”

Schaffer is ready to start a new year with her pint-sized pupils. “The kids are so fun,” she said. “They are funny and they are so smart. You might think they are just kindergartners, but they are geniuses.”

Several fourth-graders worked as crossing guards and helped their younger peers. Fourth-grader Kaleah Lacy had some sage words for kindergartners: “It’s going to be OK. I went to kindergarten at this school too and it was good.”

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio

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