GAHANNA, Ohio — Returning to the classroom is different following remote, hybrid and in-person learning models. For future kindergarteners, daycare or at-home preparation may not have readied young students for a full day of school.
A new program at Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools, put on by Concord Counseling Services, is attempting to make the transition smooth for certain students and their families.
“We tried to target students who have never been to a traditional preschool, who have never been to daycare, who are used to being home with mom and dad,” said Alex Caughell, a trained and licensed independent social worker for Concord Counseling Services. “Maybe kids who have experienced those things, but have been struggling with some separation anxiety, or maybe have a little bit extra ‘wiggliness’ in their bodies [who] need a little bit of extra support to help them practice what the expectations are for a classroom setting.”
Caughell said for families unable to utilize the program, there are ways to prepare soon-to-be students for the first day of kindergarten.
“Doing some practice at home, take some kitchen chairs and put them in the living room and practice playing school. You can have the kid play teacher, you get to then have the parent play teacher and the kid can play student,” Caughell said.
Nationwide Children’s Hospital offers options for parents, guardians or grandparents of a child starting kindergarten this fall.
The SPARK Program is free and books and supplies are included. Kids can get help with reading, writing and preschool math.
“With our program here in central Ohio our kids are about 30-some odd percent ready for kindergarten when they come to us,” said Marci Rehmar with the Education Team at Nationwide Children’s. “But by the time we're done, 96% to 98% of them are ready for kindergarten.”
Rehmar said there are some ways to speed up preparation for school this summer.
“Use your natural environment to help promote curiosity,” Rehmar said. "Children are naturally curious. If you're taking a walk in the neighborhood, looking at the different flowers, looking at the trees, I'm saying things like, ‘Oh, isn't that a pretty gray house? Which one's the gray house?’ Or, ‘Wow, do you see the brick house that I see?’ Using those natural surroundings to help teach children.”
SPARK Ohio focuses on children in the 43205, 43206, 43207, 43211 and 43224 zip codes. Organizers can pair families outside of those zip codes with other programs in Franklin County.