GREENFIELD — For the youngest students preparing to enter Greenfield’s elementary schools, registration was more than having their parents filling out paperwork, as the Greenfield Union School District hosted a transitional kindergarten (TK) and kindergarten fair Feb. 19 at Greenfield Memorial Hall.
Numerous booths were set up not only to provide information, such as from the police department or the county’s transportation agency, but also to entertain, including an activities area run by the city’s recreation department and a coloring table provided by Bright Beginnings.
“When they come in, we don’t want them to just pick up the packet and go home,” said Tony Amezcua, the district’s family and community engagement coordinator. “That’s the reason we bring in all these agencies for them to be able to better prepared when they enter school.”
Ensuring students were the right age for the programs was one area of help the district provided. Students who are 5 years old after a cutoff date qualify for kindergarten, while students 4 years of age qualified for TK, a type of pre-kindergarten. Students who were 3 years old qualified for preschool.
“Developmentally, we know there’s a huge developmental difference between our TK and kindergarten students,” said Limary Gutiérrez, the district’s director of assessment. “A lot of our parents might not know the importance of early childhood education, and providing this festival provides that opportunity for parents to have that involvement and become aware.”
Early education focuses on social and emotional learning as students figure out how to interact in an environment around peers. In addition to self-regulation, a child’s identity also comes into play at this point, Gutiérrez said.
This year was the fifth annual festival, with an average of 400 families showing up for prior years. The time of the festival lasted from the afternoon into the evening, to allow families a chance to get to the venue around work hours.
“We know some families work late and that’s why we extend it to the later hours,” Amezcua said. “Until 6 o’clock, we’re still having families show up.”
The district currently has TK and kindergarten classrooms at its four non-middle school campuses. Preschools, which rely on grants for funding, are run at the campuses of Vista Verde Middle School, Mary Chapa Academy and Oak Avenue Elementary School.
With the school year beginning in August, Amezcua said a February fair gives families the time to get documents together once they learn what they need. Things like physicals and dentist appointments can be made with plenty of leeway.
“We schedule everything in advance to give the families notice now on when those registration days are going to happen so they can start making their appointments,” Gutiérrez said.
Additionally, the district will hold a TK registration at all the district school sites from April 27 through 30, where staff will provide support.
“If they need help filling out the packet or if they have any questions when it comes to having all the proper immunizations, that’s the week that we’re dedicating for it,” Amezcua said. After that, registration will continue for the upcoming school year.