Every year it’s the same thing for me in getting ready to go back to school. Fall is the official season, but over the last decade or so schools have started earlier and earlier and many parents have their children already back in the classroom. Still others, following the archaic agrarian calendar for school, don’t start until after Labor Day. Schools used to wait for farming crops to be harvested before opening so that young men and women could help with the chores. Those days are long behind us as many modern parents, who both work outside of the home, get their children prepared in August instead of September.
As a mom, I try to plan ahead of time because my school year as an administrator starts in July so that by the time my own children are ready for school I’ve had School Brain for quite a while. However, there are a number of essential things every parent needs to have done before the first day of school.
1. Register your child. It used to be that neighborhood schools were very good about not having to do this, but with a highly mobile society this has become a necessity. Just because your 3rd grader attended School X last year doesn’t mean that they assume she’ll be attending 4th grade there as well. Make sure you are either pre-registered or have the date on your calendar when schools are open for registration. You might need proof-of-residency to show that you should enroll there so always keep a piece of mail with your name and address prominently displayed. That may sound funny, but many parents have brought me bulk mail addressed to “Our Friends at 123 Maple Street”.
2. Transportation. If your child rides the bus the school will need to be aware of that. Many districts have rules about the distance from school you must live in order to be eligible for school bus transportation. In urban areas, your child may ride the train or a public city bus. Make sure you ask if there are vouchers to ride public transportation and what the cutoff is for being able to ride the school bus for free in your area.
3. School supplies. Every parent I know has been on the lookout for school supply deals since early July. The stores have been advertising them for much longer, though. Many schools have their supply lists in local stores but be sure to check online, too, if your school has a good website. Often, there are Meet The Teacher nights or an orientation when students can haul all that stuff so they don’t have to do it on the first day back.
4. Uniform and Dress Code. Schools are as varied as they come. Some have required uniforms where you need to purchase specific clothing, but a lot of schools have groups of parents (sometimes through the PTO/PTA) who do a little garage sale of clothes that children have outgrown so that you can get them at a discounted price. If you have a dress code that requires things like shorts that need to be a certain length or no spaghetti straps, be sure to check that out before you go shopping or let your child head to school. Unfortunately, this applied more to my daughter than my sons, but I was grateful to know the rules prior to spending money or deeming something to be worn only “at home”.
5. Lunch Information. Schools are changing each year with their lunch programs, federally subsidized foods, and rules about pop machines in buildings. Be sure to check out the menu and requirements about what can be brought to school for birthdays and other celebrations. If your school is going to have a new salad bar and your child has allergies, call the cafeteria manager to find out more information. Milk and peanut allergies are at an all-time high these days and it’s important to have these conversations with your children as they head back to school.
Photo credit to Pensiero
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