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Ottawa County parents, students get to experience kindergarten together

West Ottawa Public Schools teachers are committed to giving students that classroom experience, which some children may be lacking because of the pandemic.

OTTAWA COUNTY, Mich. — Dozens of families got to experience kindergarten for the first time with their children. It's an annual tradition for West Ottawa Public Schools. 

Early childhood education enrollment has dropped since the start of the pandemic, which means children entering kindergarten now may have less experience in a classroom setting. But, North Holland Elementary School Teachers are committed to giving them that experience. 

And that starts with the kindergarten showcase, where families got a lesson in what to expect for their kindergarteners next school year. 

"For many of our families this is the first time in the building," Principal Kevin Westrate says. "It's also the first time for some kiddos to come into a school. They may or may not have done pre-k, so this is a new experience for them.

A U.S. Census Bureau survey found early childhood education enrollment dropped nearly 15%from 2019 to 2020, for kids age three to four.

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"I think there's been some been some experiences where maybe some of these kids that are coming in, (either) they came in last year or coming in this year, may have not had or had avail to them that other students had as far as that social interaction could be prior to schooling," he says. 

Principal Westrate says that's why focusing on building personal connections at a young age right now is especially important.

"That eye-to-eye contact and making sure we're listening and responding and them, and you're picking up those books and reading them; (those) all things to make sure their kids are gonna be successful when they come to school," he says.

Kindergarten Teacher Katryne Myers knows it's crucial for kids to learn those social skills firsthand.

"We consider that they've been spending more tie at home, so maybe they weren't able to do pre-k," she says. "That's the most important things. If kids are ready socially and emotionally then they're not ready for the academics. We really focus a lot on social and emotional learning."

During tonight's presentation, children got to visit their future classrooms and teachers, as well as meet some new friends too. Parents got to ask questions about enrollment requirements and the school's outdoor education program for kindergarteners. 


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