The first day of school may seem like it's a year away, but it will be here before you know it. Those with kids already in school know the dizzying drill of buying new crayons (64-packs), pencils (standard yellow) and notebooks (lined, three subjects), backpacks and new sneakers, Kleenex, water bottles and glue (Elmer's, clear). And don't forget: if you are not signed up for school yet, the school district would very much like to hear from you -- now.
There was a big push to sign up students earlier this spring, but not everyone made it.
"You can register up to the first day of school, but if your kindergarten is full your child may be bused to a different school," says Maureen Schneider, coordinator of elementary student services for Spokane Public Schools. "Actually, kindergarten is a voluntary option, but most parents send their kids. It's a good way for the kids to start school, to get used to the surroundings, gain some skills and all."
Children entering kindergarten must be five years old by August 31. Local districts begin their school years on a variety of dates in the last week of August or the first week of September.
"When the parent or guardian registers the child, they should bring a copy of the birth certificate - or anything else that's proof of the child's age," says Schneider. "We also need to see the vaccination slips."
And there's quite a few shots and immunizations required before the little ones can enter school: four DTP shots, with at least one dose after the age of four; three TPV/IPV shots with at least one dose after the age of four; two MMRs, received at or after one year of age and at least 28 days apart, and finally three Hepatitis B doses.
"There is no grace period at the beginning of the school year for the immunizations," says Schneider. "You have to have it done before you can start."
Some parents choose not to immunize their children for various reasons.
"Perhaps there are medical reasons for why the child isn't immunized. If that's the case, we ask to see a note from the doctor," says Schneider. "If there are religious reasons or other objections, then we ask for a letter from the parents stipulating their objection."
The first day of school in Coeur d'Alene is on September 2, and the immunization requirements are the same. In Coeur d'Alene, however, you also need to bring proof of residency (a utility bill or a rental agreement) on the first day of school. In this district, fall registration is on August 18 from noon-6 pm directly at the elementary schools.
Visit Your School -- School districts, of course, prefer that students register to attend their neighborhood school, and that's also a good place to begin if you have any questions about school start itself. Technically, a child can attend any school within the district, regardless of home address. But non-residential schools may not have room for extra children, and even if there is room, parents may have to provide their own transportation.
"You can ask for what's called a special transferal - but residents always have priority at their own school," says Schneider.
The sooner you sign your child up, the better.
"As soon as a family has identified the residential kindergarten school, they should go get the child registered," says Schneider. "If we know you are out there, we can get ahold of you as well. Some schools have pre-kindergarten activities and if we know you are going to attend, we'll try and invite you."
Kindergarten teachers are also more than happy to answer questions about whether your child is ready for school or not.
"You really can't give a blanket answer to the question about 'When is my child ready?'," says Schneider. "It is so individual, from child to child. You can't say that girls are ready before boys -- you can't generalize. It has a lot to do with social development. Some children may have pre-reading skills or other skills that make them ready. I'd say the best you can do, if you are in doubt, is go talk to a teacher."
Visiting the school before the first "real" day also helps your child become familiar with the building and the playground.
"It's always OK to ask questions," says Schneider. "You can talk to the principal, to the teacher - just go in and have a conversation. That will make you feel more at ease, too."
If your child is disabled or has other life circumstances that make school start more of a challenge, it's even more important to visit the school as soon as possible.
"We work out an individualized education program with special needs children," says Schneider. "The preschool staff can help with that when the child is ready for kindergarten. If you don't have an individualized education program, it would behoove the parent to contact the school over the summer."
The same goes for children for whom English is a second language.
"We have an extensive English as a Second Language support program, to be used if the child speaks a native language different from English," says Schneider. "We can put special resources with the child and develop an individual program for the child, depending on the child's development and needs."
The Spokane Regional Health District offers vaccinations on a sliding fee basis, without prior appointment, at its clinics located at 1101 W. College Ave. and 10814 E. Broadway Ave. Visit the Spokane Public Schools Web site at www.sd81.k12.wa.us or Coeur d'Alene School District at www.sd271.k12.id.us/cda Parents can also call Spokane schools at 354-5900 or the Coeur d'Alene schools at 208-664-8241.
Publication date: 06/05/03