SOUTHINGTON — Incoming kindergartners stood on the blacktop next to the playground at Thalberg School Friday afternoon. Some were clinging tightly to parents, others were trying to make friends, and many were waiting for a Popsicle.
Parents and children were able to meet teachers, staff, and members of Thalberg’s Parent-Teacher Organization during the Popsicles on the Playground event.
“It’s a really good way to get incoming kindergartners together,” said Molly Pierce, co-president of the Thalberg PTO. “Parents have the chance to talk with one another and to ask questions and meet teachers.”
The first day of school is Thursday. This is the second year a full-day kindergarten program is being offered. About 500 students are enrolled.
“Good afternoon parents” said Thalberg principal Megan Bennett. “How many people here like Popsicles? Raise your hands!”
All hands shot up.
A boy dressed in khaki shorts and a button-up T-Shirt with palm trees and boats walked up to kindergarten teacher Karen DeBishop.
“Well, what’s your name?” DeBishop said as she knelt down.
“Jack,” he answered.
“Hi Jack,” DeBishop said. “I went on vacation with palm trees. And my room’s going to be filled with palm trees, so just you wait.”
Jack Denorfia will be starting kindergarten at Thalberg next week. When asked what he was most excited about, he licked his Popsicle and confidently stated, “that, I think I’ll figure out as the year goes on.”
In July, the Board of Education received results from a parent survey on the full-day program. A total of 95 percent were pleased with the experience. About 200 parents responded.
The half-day program offered to all kindergartners in previous years was two hours and 40 minutes. The full-day program runs for six hours.
Jack’s mom, Emily Denorfia, is looking forward to Jack’s first year and “everything he’s going to learn.”
DeBishop said she’s noticed some students were tired during the first few weeks of school, but adjusted well.
“I love the full days,” DeBishop said. “As an educator, I’m capable of getting a lot more things accomplished in the classroom.”
Administrators decided to give the second year more flexibility, said Karen Smith, assistant superintendent.
“The one thing that we all learned from our first year is that when the program begins, we are extremely flexible when it comes to expectations for the month of September,” she said. “If a child requires more rest time, they have more rest time, if (they need) more snack time, more snack time.”
In the first year, kindergartners showed growth in math and reading, Smith said. This year, the district will be looking at the transition between full-day kindergarten and first grade.
“We are going to be doing a lot of curriculum revision work in grade one, making sure our grade one teachers are fully aware of the progress and the skills that our full-day kindergartners exhibited at the end of the school year,” Smith said.
Madelyn O’Brien hopped from one area on the playground to another as she waived to her mom Amanda O’Brien.
“Watch, mom,” Madelyn yelled with Popsicle-stained lips.
“You can do it,” Amanda O’Brien said. “Let me see you do it.”
Madelyn is her first child entering kindergarten. While she is worried about her adjusting to a six-hour day, O’Brien likes the idea of the full-day program.
“I think it will be good,” O’Brien said.