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Kindergarten Prep: Are You Ready? We're not.

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So we're pretty excited about kindergarten in our house.  Even my son.  We've played at its playground, showed Grandma the 'grounds,' and swung by the nearby coffee shop so we parents can picture fall mornings.  So we're ready, right?  Uh, not so fast.  What time does school actually start?  End?  Any forms to fill out?  And the vaccine thing - when is that info due, and can you get an exemption already, if you just can't hang?  And the bus!  Do kindergartners take the bus?  Do I have to make lunch or is that just an option? 

The more I ponder this the less prepared I feel!  Turns out there's more prep than finding some pants that aren't floods to start off on the right foot.  PPS's kindergarten web site has most of what you need to know all in one place, and if you can't get the skinny there, schools are open, staff are there, so ring 'em up and ask. 

Also, one key thing we were glad to know for planning is that kindergartners often start school a week after the 'big kids,' so get out yer calendar and figure out who's gonna be hanging out with whom the week prior.  We planned the family trip around that child care-less week.  One final getaway before the school calendar rules our lives.  And don't forget to check out the uM schools forum to meet other parents at your school, get your questions answered, or share your opinions.

Here's my novice plan:

  1. Confirm start date, schools vary.
  2. Learn bell times - they haven't changed 2006-07, so don't worry if the info sheet doesn't say 2008-09.
  3. Submit completed vaccine info prior to school; you can drop them off at the school prior to the start date.  Most schools are open now, but you might want to call to confirm - there's a school list here.
  4. Sign up for after care if you need it.  Check out the uM schools forum for after-care info.
  5. Figure out lunch.  Make it, buy it, apply for free/reduced cost?  Yikes.  Visit the Nutrition Services site here - you can even see a menu.  Plus, there's an 08-09 update on efforts to serve more local, nutritious foods.  Progress!
  6. Figure out how you're gonna get there (who gets bus service? what's the schedule?)
  7. And for the really curious among us, watch a classroom highlights video to see kindergarten in action!

Even though this list looks l-o-n-g, I am surely missing something - but what?  What's on your list?  if you've already been to this tea party (as my Dad would say), got  any words of wisdom for a newbie mama?

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We're going to first grade, and most certainly NOT ready either, but I just wanted to come by and say, I love Everett's picture. Is it a map to school, pirate "X," or what? Maybe we'll never know. But mostly how he wrote his name...oh that's such a magical age.

Have fun in Kindergarten!

after calling my kindergarten it turns out that we really only have 2 hours 20 minutes of school that first week. Hmmm I still have a full work week.

Yikes. Guess I might need to pay for an extra week of daycare after all. Definitely a rude awakening of how PPS doesnt sync up with working parents.

There are free printable tools at www.tessyandtab.com/kindergarten (practice writing sheets, discussion chart and checklist) Full disclosure: I work for this company -- just want to let folks know about a free resource.

I just rec'd this email from PPS re vaccines and a few other prep details:
Pre-K and kindergartners must now have Hepatitis A dose before enrolling


Portland, Ore., Aug. 14, 2008: With school quickly approaching, families should check their children's immunizations: A new Oregon law requires that pre-K and kindergarten students have at least one dose of Hepatitis A, in addition to other required vaccines, before school begins.

Also new this year, seventh-grade students must receive a Tdap vaccination. Students who do not receive this vaccine by Feb. 18 will be excluded. (This requirement is fulfilled if students have received a tetanus/diptheria shot in the last five years.)

For a full listing of vaccination requirements for all grades, click here (pdf).


Families in Portland can get their children immunized by their doctor, or, for a reduced price, at immunization clinics held by the Multnomah County Health Department. For the August clinic schedule, click here (pdf); for September, click here (pdf). Immunization clinics will also be scheduled at schools in Multnomah County throughout the year; families should call their neighborhood school for details.

Most pre-K and kindergarten programs in Portland Public Schools begin no later than Sept. 8. Families must fill out Certificate of Immunization forms to enroll their children. Forms are available online (click on "New CIS form"), at schools and at Family Support Centers.


"Vaccinations are easy to forget, but vitally important," says Jan Hootman, coordinator of health services at Multnomah Education Service District. "We hate for kids to miss school because they haven't received their shots."

Portland Public Schools provides free pre-K programs at nine schools and full-day kindergarten in all elementary and K-8 schools. About 4,800 PPS students enrolled in pre-K and kindergarten programs in 2007-08.

MESD is the regional provider of immunization tracking for the school districts in Multnomah County. MESD maintains a student data system; notifies families about immunization requirements; assists in immunization clinics; prepares exclusion documents; and trains school staff.

For more information about vaccination requirements for PPS students, contact a PPS Family Support Center at 503-916-5875 or 503-916-5729, or the Immunization Office at MESD, 503-257-1732.

For more information about early childhood education at PPS, click here.

And don't forget: you really don't have to get all of these vaccines to put your child in public school if you don't choose to.

If you're selectively vaccinating, all you need to do is leave the whole vaccine section blank on the form (just as the non-vaxers do) and simply check the "religious exemption" box. (No one will ever ask what religion). You'll still know that your kid has the vaxes you want, so it really doesn't matter that PPS will consider him or her totally unvaxed.

However, if you are fully vaccinating, then yes, you must be up-to-date to enter school.

great...all those non-vaccinated kids just rely on the vaccinated kids to keep them free of some potential life-threatening illnesses. why would they allow that at PPS?

Sending your child to public school unvaccinated, if there is no medical reason that they can't have the vaccines, is knowingly putting children with compromised immune systems at risk. If you are making the choice to leave your children unprotected at age five, that's your choice, but if you send them to public school, then you are making choices for other people's families about the safety of their children. It's like knowing there's a kid in your child's class who is deathly allergic to peanuts and sending your child in with a pb&j everyday for lunch. It's totally irresponsible. Remember, public school is for everyone, including kids with cancer, hiv or hepatitis. To be clear, delaying vaccines until your child is older and stronger is one thing, but frankly, if your not going to vaccinate your perfectly healthy five year old, then you should home school.

I agree completely with the "anon" above. Also, claiming religious reasons for not vaccinating your child just because you want to is completely egocentric....other kids are going to be around your child, the world does not revolve around you. Plus, your just lying and taking advantage of the system. A system that some of us parents hope will keep our kid safe and healthy.

This post was not meant to be a vaccine debate, but rather a reminder of all the things parents need to do to prepare for school, making personal vaccine decisions among them.

Like LTF, I only posted the vaccine information I did to make things clearer for families entering kindergarten.

For those who selectively vaccinate the school form can be unclear. And families have all kinds of reasons - not just religious - for declining certain vaccines. (Reasons that are none of anyone else's business.) But the way the form is set up, it's simply easier to use the religious exemption box. That's all. I wasn't trying to start some kind of debate.

As far as I can tell after several years, UM is a community of thoughtful, educated mothers. Whether most of us vaccinate fully, selectively, or not at all, it's a decision I would venture to say we have researched and thought long and hard about.

Insulting and belittling these decisions, anons 1-3, is uncalled for. As is using the cloak of "anon"ymity to hide behind while doing so.

Yes, I am hiding behind the cloak of "anon". Perhaps I should be more forthcoming and hide behind a moniker, my initials, or some incredibly common first name that millions of women born in the sixties and seventies share. The real reason I'm hiding behind anon, is because I already know exactly what happens when this debate comes up. But, if we're all going to be all honest and forthright, then lets start with you admitting that you are not just offering helpful tips for first time school goers. You are telling people how to skirt a system that was put in place to protect all children in school, not just yours. And by no means am I arguing with your right to make the decisions you wish for your family, but I am arguing that when you send your kids to public school, you are no longer just making the decision for your family. I'm glad that you have thoroughly researched this topic in the scope of your children, but I urge you to go back to the books and research what exposure to seemingly harmless and manageable childhood illnesses does to a child on chemo and then decide if you want your kid to be the one that exposes them.

My son caught wind of the school breakfast, so on his first day of Kindergarten last year, he insisted on going to school early so he could eat breakfast with the other kids.

I am not generally a sentimental mama, but man, he looked so small sitting at that giant cafeteria table. The only other kid at the table (strangely enough had the same name as my kiddo) was about 11, with a mohawk.

I spent the whole day worrying: How will he find his way to his classroom? What if breakfast ended, and he's just wandering the halls now? How will he possibly behave for a full-day of kindergarten? A ton of what if's...

But, you know what? He loved school. We made it through that first day. He made some friends, learned some things, and is eager to go to first grade. Which in my opinion, is all I need from the early school years: A sense of fun and excitement about learning that will carry on (hopefully) for the rest of his life (or at least to high school?).

Don't stress out about it. Your kiddos will sense it. Figure out what time school starts and how kiddo is getting there. Pack the kid's lunch on the first day--you can put favorite, "comfort" foods that will remind him of home, and you can save the lunch line for when he's a little more comfortable with the whole cafeteria routine. (Buying lunch ended up being a huge treat for my son, something we'd let him indulge in occasionally--check out the thread on Activistas for a bigger discussion about PPS food.)

One thing I should mention: Our first day was awesome. He made it through the whole day with flying colors. Day two, however...He did fine in school, but the two long days took a lot out of him. He was super-cranky/tired that second afternoon. But day three? Not so bad. And it just got better from there.

'anon' is just expressing her opinions, as are other moms.

it is scarey to me, as a mom soon-to-be kindergartner, that there are going to be non-vaccinated kids at school. while i respect everyone's religious viewpoint...i agree that by expressing on this forum how to maneuver around the school system about vaccinations is not only ridiculous, but illegal.

Sigh. It's not illegal to use the system in the way it is set up to make the best decision one can for one's family.

And, setting aside the rare situation of children on chemo - who will encounter many, many unvaxed people (adults generally haven't received *any* of the more recent vaxes like hib, prevnar, varicella, etc.) outside of school anyway, I don't really understand the concern.

If you are confident that vaccines protect your child from illness, why worry?

With all due respect, when you check the box for religious exemption and this is not the case, it is a lie. One of the simplest forms of a lie.
And, yes, Zinemama, we are all intelligent, thoughtful Mamas so please don't give a condescending "Sigh" when we disagree.

Anon, I really don't want to get into a debate here. And I apologize for coming across as condescending. But you tell me what you'd do in this position.

Say you have your kid vaxed for everything except chickenpox. Because it's a new vaccine, its long-term effects are unknown, it's long-term effectiveness is questionable; and besides, you don't consider varicella a life-threatening disease by any means. You'd rather your kid get chickenpox naturally the way everyone used to and acquire lifelong immunity. If he doesn't get chickenpox by say, age 12, you may re-consider.

But the school form gives you an all-or-nothing option. Either you declare your kid completely unvaxed via religious exemption - even though he has all but one of the required immunizations. Or you leave the space for chickenpox blank on the form. In which case the school considers your kid "not up-to-date" and refuses to admit him until vaccinated.

Do you go against your convictions and give your child a vaccination you don't trust and don't think he needs? Or do you check that religious exemption box? Seriously, what do you do?

(In any case my religion teaches that caring for and protecting my children is mandated by God. So no, checking that box is not a lie, simple or otherwise.)

I wasn't going to comment on this issue, but was motivated to reply by the question above about if your child is protected why worry. In preparing our children to become part of a school community I appreciate having info about how our decisions can affect other kids in that community. Yes, it's a personal decision, but info about how a decision impacts others can change what I decide is the best decision for my family.

Also, this morning NPR had a story about the increase in measles cases this year, its symtoms, and who is put at risk when parents opt out of the vaccination. In addition to children on chemo, infants are also put at risk, which I imagine could include all the baby siblings who come to school with mom or dad for drop-off or pick-up.

Here's the link to the NPR story about measles vaccination:
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=93866209

And here's an excerpt:
"Before the measles vaccine in this country, there were 400 deaths of U.S. children each year caused by measles," he says. "Measles carries serious complications, including pneumonia and encephalitis, which is a life-threatening inflammation of the brain tissue that can be caused by viral infections such as measles. Measles is a serious illness. To be cavalier and not vaccinate shocks someone like me, who has seen the devastating effects of this disease."

If children are not vaccinated and they contract measles, they are not the only ones at risk, Schaffner says. They can put other vulnerable children at risk, too.

That group includes children with cancer who are immunocompromised and cannot tolerate the vaccine while on chemotherapy. It also includes children under the age of 1, whose immune systems are not developed enough to benefit from the vaccine.

So far this year, 15 patients have been hospitalized as a result of measles. They suffered symptoms such as high fever, dehydration and pneumonia. Four of those who were hospitalized for measles were infants.

Thank you, Nicole, for voicing my exact thoughts, better than I could, and with the data to back it up!

I'm going to add to the vaccine info here and clarify the exemption by "Religious beliefs" as defined by Oregon itself. Under Oregon's exemption rule, religion is defined as "any system of beliefs, practices or ethical values." You can also see http://www.oregon.gov/DHS/ph/imm/docs/SchExempt.pdf
for more on this.

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