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Tips for parents

By Times staff
© St. Petersburg Times
published August 4, 2002


Before school starts:

Start your school routine early. Summer break has had many kids staying up late and sleeping in. To avoid burnout that first week of school, get your kids adjusted to their school bedtime and wakeup schedule at least one week ahead of time.

Visit the school. Pasco County schools host countywide registration days on Tuesday for middle and high school students and Wednesday for elementary students. This is a good time to acquaint your child to his or her new school or classroom, meet the teacher(s), pay fees and obtain lockers, bus passes or parking permits. Teachers often have their supply lists ready at this time, so you might be able to get a head start shopping. Those who cannot attend countywide registration or those whose children attend private schools should call the school and make arrangements to stop by.

Go on a bus route dry run. This is especially important for younger children who have never ridden the bus. During your ride, point out different landmarks along the way. Make sure you and your child know the bus number. Also, talk to your child about bus safety. Arrive at the bus stop at least five minutes ahead of time. Stay back from the road and do not approach the bus until the driver opens the door. Children should sit facing forward and talk quietly while riding the bus. Maintain silence at all railroad crossings. Hands and fingers should always be kept away from the window. Respect the driver and follow his or her directions. Wait for the bus to stop completely before standing to get off, and after getting off, walk 10 steps ahead of the bus before crossing the road. Never go back to retrieve an item that you have dropped. More children are killed by buses when they go back to retrieve something they might have dropped and then get in the driver's blind spot, says Mike Park, director of transportation for Pasco County schools. For Pasco County school bus route information, go to to www.pasco.k12.fl.us.

Think and talk positively. First-day jitters are pretty common, especially for those attending new schools. Be sure to talk up the school experience and share some of your own positive school memories. Acknowledge and empathize with your children's mixed emotions. Remind them that teachers and administrators understand and expect that new students might get lost and be late for class that first week of school.

First Day:

To avoid the morning rush, set out school clothes and pack lunches (think healthy) and the backpack the night before. Include parent contact numbers in your child's backpack. Helpful hint: Frozen juice boxes or yogurt are a good way to keep lunches cool during the school day. Including a special note in your child's lunch will no doubt go a long way to making that first day a winner.

Check out the school dress code. Those who don't want to get a call from the administration should make sure their children are dressed appropriately when they leave for school.

If your child is buying lunch, consider paying with a check for a week or even a month in advance. Include your child's student identification number and what the money is for on the check. For younger children paying with cash, place the money in an envelope labeled with your child's name and student identification number, his or her teacher's name and what the money is for.

If your child is going to be a bus rider, have him or her ride the bus the first day of school. This will help children become acquainted with their daily ritual and become a familiar face to the adults who help at the bus loop.

Those who drive their children to school should fight the urge to linger. Make it short and sweet: Send them off with a hug and kiss and a "Have a nice day."

When the day is over, ask how the day went. If there was a problem, address it at once by calling your child's teacher before or after school hours.

Check your child's backpack. There will be a wealth of information, along with plenty of forms to fill out that first week. Get those forms back as soon as possible and keep in the habit of checking your child's schoolwork. Consider starting a memory folder or box for your child's work. Those papers will be fun to look at in the future and will provide a base line for gauging your child's academic progress throughout the coming year.

-- MICHELE MILLER

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