COLUMBIA — Though Wednesday’s school day had ended more than an hour earlier, Russell Boulevard Elementary School was teeming with people and alive with sound.
In the cafeteria, teachers warmly greeted visitors walking into the building. Down the hallways, tour groups led by kindergarten teachers buzzed with the melody of chattering 5-year-olds. On the playground, children tested out the slides and swing sets where they would spend the next four years playing.
At Russell Boulevard and around the city, Columbia Public School District’s kindergarten registration was in full swing.
Kindergarten registration, a districtwide event in which parents can enroll their 5-year-olds in local schools, gives children and parents the chance to turn in paperwork, tour school buildings, meet teachers and administrators and see the inside of the school buses.
Russell Boulevard kindergarten teacher Debbie Wood said the registration is more than just a time to turn in the necessary forms, it is beneficial to everyone involved.
“It’s good in several ways,” Wood said. “It helps us get an idea of how many students we will have, it gives the parents a chance to ask questions and it gives kids the chance to see the building and get used to their school.”
Wood and a fellow kindergarten teacher, Linda Moore, sat on a rug embroidered with colorful smiley faces in the cafeteria. They entertained their future students while parents filled out paperwork, showing them how to play with the K'NEX building blocks that were scattered around the area.
Moore said that making a good first impression on the students is important.
“Kindergarten is a unique year, because you’re launching kids into the many years of school ahead of them,” Moore said. “So you want to make sure that it’s a positive experience. You want them to be as successful as possible.”
Looking forward to learning
Many of the future kindergartners have been looking forward to beginning their schooling experiences.
“He’s been talking about starting kindergarten since he was about three,” Triere Boyer said of her son, Coehn, who was being enrolled in Russell Boulevard. “I had to explain to him that today wasn’t the day that he was starting.”
Coehn, while exploring one of the kindergarten rooms, got excited when he saw signs on the wall that listed different colors.
“Pink, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, brown, black, white,” he said smiling at his mother. “I love reading.”
At Paxton Keeley Elementary School, future kindergartener Jack Burton counted out loud to 100 while he sat in his future classroom on a tour of the school.
“Jack is very excited,” his mother Katie Burton said. “He has been waiting to come to school with his big sister. He wants to see the whole school because now it’s his school, too.”
Sasha Kyle toured Paxton Keeley as well. Greeley Kyle, her father, said that she is “thrilled” to be starting kindergarten in the fall.
As she looked around the room, Sasha said her beanbag cat, Siamese, will be joining her at school.
“Siamese comes everywhere with me,” Sasha said. “She loves to be at kindergarten.”
Learning to let go
At Grant Elementary School, Tim Tunks said he is glad that his son Ryan is going to be having new experiences and learning in the process.
“I think he’s tired of preschool,” Tunks said. “He’s ready for some new adventures.”
Cherise Oleson, who registered her daughter Lauren at Fairview Elementary School has done the same for three of her other children in the past. Lauren is her youngest.
"Part of it feels like the ending of an era," Oleson said. "But I think she's more than ready."
Though getting Lauren ready to go to kindergarten is an emotional experience, Oleson said that her knowledge of Fairview's faculty eases the process.
"I know the teachers, I know the administrators," Oleson said. "This feels like a family."
Jill Simmons, who was visiting Grant for the first time to register Mia, her daughter, said that she is excited but also a little sad to register her for kindergarten.
"She just grew up so fast," Simmons said.
Mia, who is excited to get started at school, was enthusiastic about the Grant's playground.
"Can I stay here, Mommy?" Mia said, hugging her mother around the waist.
Inside the classroom
Russell Boulevard kindergarten teacher Jasmine Rustemeyer said that most of the kids who came to registration seemed eager to start school and their parents had plenty of questions.
"They are usually concerned with things that have to do with the transition into kindergarten," Rustemeyer said. "When nap time is, when they eat, drop off and pick up procedures. It's not really about the academics right now, but just seeing that the kids make a smooth transition."
Shelli Thelen, a kindergarten teacher at Paxton Keeley and a mother, said that she understands parents' concerns.
"I feel like I can understand how hard it is for a mother to let go of her child for the first time," Thelen said. "But, it's really rewarding to see them (the kids) change over the year."
Paxton Keeley kindergarten teacher Marisa Sherbo enjoys the changes she sees in her students as well.
"There is such a difference from coming in and not knowing how to read and write to leaving and knowing how to read and write," Sherbo said.
Kimberly Lang, a teacher at Benton Elementary School, will be teaching kindergarten for the first time next year. She has taught second grade the most but doesn't have much of a preference for what grade she teaches.
"I'm just excited to get back in the classroom and see the kids," Lang said.
Grant's principal, Beverly Borduin, said that registration day was a success.
"There were no tears about coming to school tonight," Borduin said. "Everyone was happy."
Actually, there were some tears. Borduin also said one little girl cried because she didn't want to leave the school.
Eager to begin
Coehn, finishing up his tour, expressed delight at the idea of getting the chance to go to school at Russell Boulevard.
"I'm excited about learning stuff and reading stuff," Coehn said.
Coehn stood on his tiptoe trying to see the inside of one of the kindergarten classes he hadn't been in yet. Unable to peek through the window, Boyer came and picked Coehn up so that he could see inside.
"Won't that be cool to be going to class in there?" Boyer said.
Coehn nodded furiously.
"Yeah, I think so too," Boyer said.