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Incoming kindergartners get skills check ahead of the coming school year

Parents receive insight about child’s strengths and weaknesses
Riley Alderton, principal at Needham Elementary School, and Josephine Lewis, 4, both react as the tower she built falls while testing her motor skills on Thursday during the Durango School District 9-R kindergarten screening program at the district’s Administration Building. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Durango School District 9-R invited preschool-age children bound for kindergarten next school year to play learning games with 9-R staff members as a way of screening students to see what skills they might need to work on with their parents this summer.

“Our goal this year is to provide the screening and tips to support continued growth over the summer to as many families as we can,” said Laurie Rossback, executive director of curriculum.

Children who came to the screening event played games where they identified patterns, wrote letters, and drew and cut out shapes.

“There are three different areas for the screener. We look at gross motor skills and fine motor skills, language and concepts,” Rossback said. “While they’re assessing, parents have an opportunity to complete registration paperwork.”

After the screening, parents meet with 9-R staff members to discuss how their child performed.

“We go over areas where their child showed real strengths, and provide additional opportunities for things to continue working on between now and the start of school in August,” Rossback said.

Families then receive a packet of information and a bag of materials sponsored by the Rotary Club of Durango. Interactive items such as chalk, childproof scissors and First Little Reader books are included in the packets.

“This is our first kid going to public school, and I’m excited about the screening,” said Sarah Klein, parent of 4-year-old Wylie Klein. “It sounds like a great idea to see what kids are coming in with. It’s all good information as a parent, so we can make sure they’re prepared. It’s a big transition for them and for us.”

Packets are designed to provide ideas and activities for children and families to use before school begins in late August. The Durango Education Foundation also paid for the Ready Rosie app, which provides early education activities designed for families.

Lindsay Neiman, principal at Riverview Elementary School, and Wylie Klein, 4, share a laugh while testing his language skills on Thursday during the Durango School District 9-R kindergarten screening program in the district’s Administration Building. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Rossback said this is the first year all of the 9-R elementary schools are participating in the same screening process for incoming kindergartners.

“We really wanted to start to unify the process for kindergarten registration instead of one school doing one thing and another school doing something else,” she said. “We’re really trying to help parents also to feel more prepared for the transition.”

District staff members conducting screenings were mostly elementary school principals.

About 40% of incoming kindergartners and their parents showed up to take advantage of the resource. Rossback said the goal in the future is to get 100% participation.

Parents were generally excited to get some insight into their child’s development ahead of their transition to kindergarten.

“I feel like the screening is really helpful,” said Maria Santiago, mother of 4-year-old Josephine Lewis. “This is my second child in the 9-R school district, and I would have really liked this with my first one, because I felt he maybe wasn’t ready for kindergarten.”

“Overall, I think it’s great for kids in general,” said Jerome Gallegos, a friend Santigo’s in attendance to support Joesphine. “If they need assistance in certain areas it’s great to comb that out and get them what they need to hit the ground running.”

Rossback said some common skills new kindergartners may need a little more work on are things such as using scissors and other motor-skill activities.

“Sometimes things like using scissors or playing with Play-Doh may not seem academic, but it’s building those hand and fine-motor muscles that will allow them to eventually be able to do things like writing,” she said.

Rossback said it is also helpful to develop a child’s independence by working on activities such as putting their shoes on by themselves, or washing their hands by themselves, or even making sure they can get their jacket on by themselves.

“There’s a lot of day-to-day things that we can sometimes forget about when kids are in a class of 20 students and may not have as much access to an adult,” she said.


An earlier version of this story erred in saying that Jerome Gallegos was the father of Josephine Lewis. Gallegos was a friend of Josphine’s mother, Maria Santiago, who was at the screening to support Josephine.

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