With just a few days left until the start of school, the entire CPS community is going over checklists to make sure that everyone and everything is ready on the very first day – Monday, August 26.
For Lily Kozubowski, who will be a first-grader at Annie Keller Elementary, getting ready for school means finishing her school supply shopping and trying not to be apprehensive about her first day at a new school. So far, excitement over the school supplies seems to be outweighing the nerves.
“I’m really excited to go back to school,” said Lily. “I think there are going to be a whole lot of fun things there. And I have this great backpack - it’s kind of an indigo color with hearts and peace signs everywhere.”
Leo Reynoso, who will be a freshman in the Taft High School IB Program, is mainly concerned with adjusting his sleep schedule.
“I’ve been trying to go to bed earlier so that I can get used to getting up early in the morning,” he said. “It’s sort of working out.”
Sleep schedules are also on the mind of Susan Schultz, mother of Catie, 8, and Jack, 6, both of whom attend Henry R. Clissold Elementary School.
“We’re trying to get back into our routines,” she said, “especially in the morning, when there are lots of things that have to get done before we leave for school.”
Catie and Jack are part of Clissold’s Montessori program, which is largely focused on the importance of independent learning. To help prepare them for this concept, Susan has placed a dry-erase board by the front door listing all of their morning tasks. This way, all Catie and Jack have to do is cross things off as they go.
“We tried this a couple years ago before Jack was fully reading,” said Susan. “Back then, I’d draw pictures for him of his tasks so that he knew what to do. But his idea of getting things done was just to erase the pictures. We’re hoping it will work out better this year.”
As families prepare outside of school, CPS teachers are busy readying their classrooms – organizing learning materials, putting up bulletin boards, and doing whatever they can to make each space a warm and welcoming environment for their students.
“I love the beginning of the school year because it is a fresh start,” said Karen Brogan, a special education teacher at Shoop Elementary. “I am really looking forward to this year, because CPS has implemented a lot of great programs that are going to support teachers and help us better serve our students. My hope for my students is that they are excited about the upcoming school year and ready to fully engage themselves into all the exciting lessons I have in store for them.”
Kathryn O’Brien, a speech and language pathologist for CPS, has been spending time at both of her assigned schools (Tarkington and Stevenson) to examine caseloads, review student IEP’s, establish schedules and collaborate with teachers and other clinicians. She was energized by a summer clinic conducted by Dr. Markay Winston, CPS’ Chief Officer for Instructional Learning Supports, and looks forward to working closely with her students’ teachers to help them become more successful academically.
“Although each year brings new changes and challenges, I am always excited to begin working with my students in helping them become successful communicators inside and outside the classroom,” said Kathryn.
For principals, this final week is largely about making sure that students are where they need to be on the first day of school. Dana Butler, principal of Ruiz Elementary, has come up with some creative outreach methods to make sure parents and students remember the all-important start date of August 26.
“We send out a lot of robo calls,” he said, “but not the traditional kind. Ours are more fun.”
The robo calls that go out to Ruiz parents feature the excited voices of current students and recently-graduated alumni. They also include lively background music, are delivered in both English and Spanish, and end with Principal Butler telling students how much he’s missed them over the summer.
“It’s very important to us that all of our students be here on the very first day,” said Principal Butler. “We consider it a mission.”
No matter what the preparation, all members of the CPS community share the same goal – to see students arrive ready to learn on August 26 so that they can have a strong start to what will hopefully be an exciting and productive school year.