2009-03-21 / Schools

New 'Parents Night' program helps prepare future students

By Scott Rawdon

HEBRON - Lakewood Superintendent Jay Gault said 60 percent or more kindergarteners are not prepared for their first day of school.

"It's nation-wide trend," said Gault, and not unique to the Lakewood School District. He said it's a sign of the times as single parents are common and most parental couples are forced to work; the days of one parent staying home with the children full-time are nearly gone. Gault said the Lakewood and Licking Valley school districts teamed with the Reading Foundation of Licking County to create Parents Night, which is a forum to help parents of very young children prepare them for kindergarten.

Gault said parents should read to their preschool children for 20 minutes per day. "It's vital to the development of a child's reading skills," he said. Gault's not blaming parents for children's unpreparedness for school. The vast majority of parents are not professional educators and don't know instinctively how to ready their children for kindergarten.

The Parents Night program helps to teach parents how to teach their preschool children. "Then we take it from there," said Gault. He said the most recent Parents Night was late February. High school students provided baby sitting services for the young children while 63 parents attended the class. Gault hopes to have a Parents Night once per quarter. He said the reading foundation is delivering educational packets to local parents of newborns to get them started right.

In other Lakewood School District news:

• The new lunch purchasing system at the Lakewood School District may stump anyone who remembers carrying a Brady Bunch lunchbox to school, but Lakewood elementary students adapted within a couple days. In fact, they adapted to it far more quickly than Lakewood's intermediate and high school students, however Gault said there is a very good explanation.

He said the system allows parents, generally speaking, to deposit money into the system ahead of time so the students don't need to mess with bringing lunch money to school. At the elementary school, the cashier touches a picture of the student who is spending the lunch money on the machine. But, intermediate and high school students are required to punch a personal code to purchase lunch items on their own. Many of the students, said Gault, were simply forgetting their codes. "It took about two weeks at the high school for it to run smoothly," he said.

• There's going to be a levy on the November 2009 ballot, but Gault wasn't ready to predict its millage yet. He said the board of education plans to invite roughly 110 people representing different aspects of the community and invite them to a public meeting June 2, 6:30 p.m. at Creative Catering in Hebron.

During the meeting community and school district representatives will discuss the needs of the school and decide on a millage based in part on what is said during the meeting. The situation is complicated, said Gault, because last year may be the first year he can remember with the total value of the properties within the school district have lowered.

Gault's also concerned that people who hear about Ohio Governor Ted Strickland's plan to funnel money in to Ohio's schools may cause some to believe a levy isn't necessary at this time. That, he said, is wrong. It may take a couple years for Ohio school districts to see any of the state's money. "What do we do in the meantime?" he asked.

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