Classes resume in four Clark County districts

By

Published:

 

For a glimpse at popular baby names, circa 2005, and the fascinating makeup of Clark County classrooms today, here are all the first names of Robert Flach's kindergarten classmates on Wednesday:

Zach

Isabella

Harjot

Jack Henry

Cassidy

Raquelle

Jason

Dylan

Kylie

Ahmed

Kyra

Aidan

Nayeli

Hannah

Josephine

Nicolas

Sabreen

Naomi

Mustafa

Caleb

Truman

First day of school: first day ever for Robert Flach, 5, and he wasn’t about to miss a moment.

“He’s been up since 6, asking, ‘Can we go yet? Can we go yet?’” said his father, Stephen Flach, 37, making his own milestone journey to deliver his first-born child to kindergarten.

For a glimpse at popular baby names, circa 2005, and the fascinating makeup of Clark County classrooms today, here are all the first names of Robert Flach’s kindergarten classmates on Wednesday:

Zach

Isabella

Harjot

Jack Henry

Cassidy

Raquelle

Jason

Dylan

Kylie

Ahmed

Kyra

Aidan

Nayeli

Hannah

Josephine

Nicolas

Sabreen

Naomi

Mustafa

Caleb

Truman

Excitement and anxiety bundled into one big hand-holding, backpack-toting ball of energy at Harmony Elementary and schools across the Evergreen district, which opened their doors Wednesday.

Plenty of keepsake photos were snapped as the Class of 2023 — did we really just write that? — peeled away from moist-eyed moms, dads, uncles and grandmas to begin life’s next adventure.

School also opened in the Hockinson, La Center and Woodland districts.

Even better news for Robert: Six full hours of kindergarten, part of Evergreen’s bold all-day, everyday kindergarten offered to all pupils, at no extra charge, starting this year.

“He’s excited. I think I have more anxiety,” said Stephen Flach of his opening-day jitters. Flach and his schoolteacher wife had considered keeping Robert in a day care facility that also provides full-day kindergarten before they learned of Evergreen’s switch.

“It’s awesome. It’s more consistent with his learning,” he said.

Evergreen’s shift comes at a cost of about $3.5 million this year. The district added 42 more teacher positions and eight new portable classrooms to stretch school capacity. State school funding continues to pay for only a half-day of kindergarten instruction for the district’s 1,800 pupils.

It completes a remarkable about-face from a cost-saving move made a year ago that backfired in the eyes of many.

To save perhaps $500,000 in midday school bus routes required to collect and return morning and afternoon kindergartners, Evergreen adopted a complicated alternate-days schedule.

But the on-off-on pattern confused and annoyed parents and upset many young pupils. Parents complained their children suffered from lack of routine and daily instruction. Several teachers agreed.

Rather than revert to the old AM/PM schedule, Evergreen chose instead to absorb the cost and become what it believes is Southwest Washington’s first full-day kindergarten district (outside of a select few pilot school programs, most aimed at low-income households).

Camas school officials last month dropped plans to add optional full-day kindergarten, for an annual tuition charge of $5,000 per child.

‘Lasting impact’

At Evergreen, “It’s gone well for us,” said Tom Nadal, director of elementary education. The only positive “bump” identified by long-term research on kindergarten schedules has been full-day learning, he said. And teacher coaching and full-day kindergarten are shown to have the greatest potential to improve student performance, he said.

“They have the most lasting impact,” Nadal said.

Special-needs kindergarten classes are included in the new format, which now includes two-hour early release for all students every Wednesday to provide teacher planning time.

On this Wednesday, Harmony kindergarten pupils quickly integrated into school life.

First came new name tags, then the year’s first official business — an inaugural Pledge of Allegiance, prompted by the daily intercom announcement. Some instructors followed up with a few more practices.

Robert and his classmates didn’t know it, but they also got a quick lesson in fractions. Evergreen kindergarten teachers will welcome one-third of their class on successive days this week. Robert won’t return until Tuesday, when the entire group meets for the first time.

The so-called “smart start” is unfolding at all but Orchards and Pioneer elementary schools, where faculty members chose to bring in all students at once.

Emotions high

Ninth-year Harmony Elementary Principal Mary Horn, a former kindergarten teacher who started work at Harmony 19 years ago when the school opened, said first-day transitions had gone smoothly.

“We got ’em all in,” Horn said with a smile of relief, as the early din settled to a calm. “I think the only tears I saw were the parents’.”

She expects all five kindergarten classes, 115 pupils total, to thrive with the new schedule. Pupils didn’t seem fatigued by full days a year ago, and most youngsters are comfortable with extended supervision, such as at day care, she said.

“We thought they would wear out a bit (last year), but they did well,” Horn said.

With her students steered to proper rooms, the principal had at least a few hours before the No. 1 concern of any opening day would re-emerge: “Making sure our kids get on the right bus,” Horn said.

“That’s the biggest thing, getting them here and back home, safely. Thankfully, we have lots of volunteers,” she said.

Near the Harmony lobby, one novice school parent began to exhale, a good half-hour into the her son’s first class period. Only then had her palms stopped sweating and her heart stopped pounding, she said.

“I’m trying to not cry. He’s our first child,” said Kinuyo Endres, 42, mother of Anthony, 5. “I think the whole day (schedule) is pretty good for learning.”

Endres plans to take special pains when Anthony returns next time, via the school bus. It’s another huge step for both mother and child. She’ll see him onto the coach Tuesday, then maybe drive after it, just to be certain all goes well.

“I’ll carry a box of Kleenex with me,” she said.

Howard Buck: 360-735-4515 or howard.buck@columbian.com.