PreK and Other New-to-School Adventures

welcome rainbow

I had been building E up to the idea of PreK for months, quite possibly since last year. “Soon you’ll be going to big girl school! With other big boys and girls! You’ll have so much to do and learn, and you’ll get to play everyday!”

Since last spring, I drove E around her PreK / elementary school campus so she could see it for herself. E was fascinated by all the older boys and girls running down the soccer fields and the manic little bodies running all over the playgrounds. E was eager to join and repeatedly pleaded over the summer to go to PreK as soon as possible.

Yes! I had successfully established a desire to begin her education. E was fearless and all but jumped out of bed on the first day of class.

Signing up to PreK – now that was interesting. I had contacted the school in March (thinking I was ahead of the curve) asking when the PreK program would be available for sign up. Nonchalantly, I was told the PreK program was already full (for the 2017-2018 year) and had been since January. WTF? Online, the program still had information posted from the previous school year, nothing whatsoever indicating signups for the program were then available. When I related this simple, technical fact over the phone (irritated too) the staff member, sounding flustered and caught-out, poorly related that PreK tends to fill quickly so they don’t need to advertise it, families with older kids in the school already know about the program. In other words, families already in the system are the first to know and get spots. Excuse me while I call bullshit on that.

E was put on a waiting list and in the meantime I frantically scoured other PreK programs of equally good standing and of reasonable cost for the next several days. I’d be damned if my kid was missing out. I had her signed up to another PreK program within a week and I thought all was settled…until May. I was called by that initial campus and was told, “Congratulations! E has been taken off the waiting list and can join our program.” What?

It took several layers of papers to transfer E from being officially enrolled in one campus to another. I switched her enrollment b/c it would mean E attending school at one campus for 7 years rather than switching schools right after PreK. I wanted E to have the stability I never had as a kid. Growing up, we moved often and so switched schools often. I want E to grow up with the confidence of seeing the same kids everyday, the same teachers and all at the same school.

I called the school about a week from the anticipated start date, just to clarify when I would be hearing from the PreK teacher. That was an interesting conversation. The staff member spoke to me as though I were a temperamental five year old. She referred to E by every sickly-sweet nickname on the planet without actually using her real name once, “Your darling angel…” “Your precious one…” “Your little baby-face…” and she continued on in that kid’s glove voice for the entirety of the conversation. Actually, I had only called with the one question and was given a 10 minute spiel. I had gathered that she was trying to answer questions she expected me to have as goodness knows how many more parents before me had asked. All I had was the one question, but understood immediately that the admin staff must be used to harassing parents and probably defaulted to a placating and child-glorifying tone. I felt sympathetic for the staff. While in my work profession as a university counselor, I had occasionally interacted with harassing parents but as their child was 18 or older, the call was always short-lived.

At long last, we hear from E’s PreK teacher and we schedule a meet-and-greet. I was also emailed the school supply list. That was another shock. I anticipated paper, crayons, and markers, but:

1 backpack
1 school box
2 bottles Elmer’s glue
12 glue sticks (yes, 12 sticks)
2 boxes 24 count Crayola crayons
2 boxes 10 count Crayola washable markers
2 spiral notebooks, 70 page count
1 pair blunt scissors
1 watercolor set
1 plastic pocket folder
1 package sanitizing wipes
1 box Kleenex
1 set computer headphones
1 box Ziplock sandwich bags
1 package of large white paper plates
1 pump bottle of hand soap

I have no idea how families with multiple children do this. Tuition is just under $5000 and with supplies, new clothes and shoes…it adds up and how.

At drop-off times, it’s sheer chaos. We are blocks from the school but it’s equal parts personal vehicles and kids walking, running, and bike riding to school. As far as I’m concerned, I don’t have enough heads to look in any one direction for clearance. I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to navigating the madness at 7:30am. Maybe that’s a good thing.

E doesn’t register any of this, nor is it her responsibility to do so. I’m thrilled that E’s thrilled as she looks up to me with a grin on her face, happy to be a big girl.
Austin, Texas

Published by Christina Schmidt

I'm an author and live in the vibrant city of Austin, Texas. Cheers, y'all.

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