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Future class of 2027 prepares for school

BY LAUREN P. DUNCAN lduncan@paducahsun.com

The faces of children entering kindergarten displayed a wide range of expressions Sunday when they met their teachers and toured schools.

Two Graves County schools, Wingo Elementary and Central Elementary, held back-to-school kickoff events Sunday for kindergartners and their families. Classes at both schools start Wednesday.

Some kids walking the halls at Central displayed looks of bewilderment, while others were already making friends. For 4-year-old Camden Dunning, starting school is something his parents said he's thrilled about.

"He woke up this morning and wanted to be here (at school)," said Camden's mom, Paige Dunning.

The schools will hold kickoff events for 1st through 6th grades this week. Central Principal Stephanie Sullivan said the schools try to host kindergartners separately to give the little ones a chance to assimilate to the new surroundings without the big kids around.

This year marks Central's largest group of kindergartners. The 11-year-old building will have 85 kindergartners in four classrooms, up from last year's 74 kindergartners.

On Sunday, staff members took the youngsters on tours of the school, including stops in the library and computer labs, while parents met with teachers. Kids were also able to meet their bus drivers, have a snack in the cafeteria and play on the playground. Staff members shared information about the parent-teacher organization and family resources.

Many parents arrived with their kids' school supplies Sunday; cubby storage spaces were already labeled for each kid.

In teacher Andrea Kemp's classroom, parents filled out paperwork while Kemp ran through some of the basics of starting kindergarten and addressed housekeeping issues. She shared with parents everything from homework frequency to gym shoe policies, newsletter schedules and a new grading system.

On her classroom wall are boards marked "ABC Club" and "100 Club," for students' names who have learned the alphabet and can count to 100. Kemp said she expects all students to be in both clubs by November.

Kemp also explained a process that will be new to all students at Central Elementary: free breakfast and lunch.

Central is one of 13 area schools that will begin participating for the first time this year in a program through the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 that allows high-poverty schools to provide two meals for all students at no cost to parents.

She said all students are asked to run their lunch cards at lunchtime, but if they bring their own lunches, their free school lunches will be placed on a "share table" for all kids.

Kemp detailed the kids' daily schedule, which includes computer lab time, which she said requires some parent volunteers for the kindergartners, who are just learning the alphabet. The schedule also includes a less-favorite activity among students: nap time.

"I don't know why they don't enjoy it like I do," Kemp joked.

Kemp will have 25 kindergartners in her class this year.

At Wingo Elementary, there's also an influx of new students because the school is taking on about 100 students from the closed Cuba Elementary School in Graves County.

Teacher Amy Elliott, who has been instructing kindergarten for 11 years alongside teacher Bridget Whitford, said this year they'll have 24 students, their largest class yet. There are 73 kindergartners starting at Wingo this school year.

Sunday's kickoff allowed the two a chance to get to know the students and parents before class is underway, she said.

"It's easier for the parents to meet one-on-one," Elliott said. "There's a personal aspect to it."

Parent Katie Davis' son will be starting in Elliott and Whitford's class. He attended pre-kindergarten at Cuba Elementary last year and is starting at Wingo due to Cuba's closure.

"He's very excited," she said.

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