Kids and parents adjust to kindergarten |

Kids and parents adjust to kindergarten

Caitlin Row
Summit County Correspondent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Summit Daily/Mark Fox

SUMMIT COUNTY – Kindergarten, a right of passage for local kids and their parents, started last week, marking 5- and 6-year-olds’ first step at independence. And in celebration, parents community-wide gathered at schools to take pictures of their kids marching into class.

“It’s amazing how fast it has gone,” said parent Valaurie Tatro, a parent of Breckenridge Elementary kindergartner Sophia. “They’re ready, though, to go out and explore the world a little bit more.”

At Breckenridge Elementary School, principal Peg Connealy said parents started showing up well before school started Wednesday, already in tears. Breck Elementary even provided coffee and Kleenex for the first day – a table managed by parent volunteers – to help with the stressful situation.

“It’s hard to let those little ones go,” she said.

Kids feel proud, nervous

Though there’s lots of stress associated with entering kindergarten, teachers say kids also feel proud they’re going to class like older brothers and sisters.

“When the little ones come in, they feel so proud and special to be at a school where all the older kids go,” Summit Cove kindergarten teacher Megan Smith said. “It’s a really special time for them.”

Even so, starting kindergarten can be hard for parents and children alike.

“This is the first time they’re away from their parents,” said Crystal Miller, the principal at Summit Cove Elementary School. “It’s almost a right of passage for the parents, too. It may be the first time kids are away from them for a whole day. It’s a lot of trust on the parents’ part. There are a lot of emotional stresses.”

Miller said it may actually be harder for the parents than the kids. That’s why she tells them to stay happy in front of their children to send a positive message about school, that it’s a safe place, because energy is transferred from parents to kids. And if parents need to talk with someone about the anxieties of separation, her door is always open.

“Kids walk upstairs with their backpack,” Miller said. “They walk upstairs independently. One of the core values taught (in kindergarten) is independence. It’s a big deal.”

Though many new kindergartners do cry at first, Smith said they’re also very excited.

“The day comes and there’s so much build-up, they can become nervous and scared,” Smith said. “The kids just are not quite sure what to do with the energy – all the feelings that they have. The first few weeks, they can be really tired.”

Kids learn a lot in the first year

Kindergarten – a tax-funded, full-day program – isn’t just about socialization and learning to play in groups.

“There are lots of standards to meet – reading, writing and math,” Miller said. “It’s much more academic that what parents experienced.”

Kindergartners also learn how to treat people without parental supervision.

“It’s the first time they’re in a big group interaction they’ll be in all day long,” Miller said. “The teachers are great with helping kids with the transition of learning in a group.”

According to Dillon Valley Elementary School principal Gayle Jones-Westerberg, kindergarten teachers help students to be thinkers – how to be good communicators, to be open-minded – and to be risk takers.

“I believe kindergartners even learn about striving to be an inquirer,” Jones-Westerberg said. “They learn to ask good questions, wonder to think about answers and possibilities. We create safety and security for children through routines, guiding behavior and complimenting them when they behave in a positive way.”

Miller also said learning to read is the most important aspect for kindergartners.

“When you can learn to read, you can do a lot of things,” Miller said. “Stepping away from Mom and Dad on the first day is a big step too.”

SDN reporter Caitlin Row can be reached at (970) 668-4633 or at

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