- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—DECATUR — Only one child shed a tear at the first day of Kindergarten Safari at Durfee Magnet School on Monday.

“We usually have several,” said Rida Ellis, instructional coach.

The district used to hold a districtwide kindergarten welcome event at Hope Academy, said Principal Sarah Oakes, but this year instructed buildings to organize their own events, if they wished.

“We decided we really wanted more than a ‘drop in and say hello,’” she said. “We wanted a chance to give our kindergarten kids a head start. Many of the kids we get haven’t had a lot of preschool experience, so that first week at school is a little bit rough.

“They’re away from their parents sometimes for the first time, there are a bunch of kids here, it’s hot, they rode the bus for the first time.”

Much like freshman orientation at Decatur’s high schools, the event at Durfee this week allows the new students to have the building to themselves, meet their teachers, learn the school rules and where things are and have a trial run of sorts before school officially begins Aug. 17. Oakes said the staff even organized it so they’d get to practice riding the bus.

The children will attend half-days all week, and that allows their teachers and staff to get to know them and have some fun with them while “sneaking” in some academics at the same time.

Kindergarten is a full day districtwide when the school year starts for real, with no half-day option any longer, so without easing into the routine, it can be difficult for a child going to school for the first time, said teacher Roxie Danyus.

She discovered on Monday that two of her students have milk allergies, which is important to know when breakfast is served in the classroom.

“We can assess them and find out where they are (academically),” Ellis said, which is also helpful for teachers to know before the school year begins. Some of the students, like 5-year-old Marshon Simon, can already spell their first and last names.

“I want to have fun and go outside and play,” Marshon said about looking forward to kindergarten. He doesn’t know any of his classmates, unlike some of the students who live near each other and are already friends.

Durfee is a magnet school that focuses on technology and accepts students from throughout the district.

“We really wanted to create an experience that would be like (the first day), only not as overwhelming,” Oakes said.

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