"Our son was so excited he wouldn't sleep. At 10 o'clock, we said, ‘You're keeping everyone up!' "
To say K.J. McGregor, 5, was ready for his first day of kindergarten is an understatement.
Mom Jackie and dad Kevin are veterans at this with four other children in school. But that doesn't make it any easier.
"He's our only boy. And he's never been in daycare before," Kevin said Wednesday morning after leaving K.J. with his new teacher at Mesa's Harris Elementary School in the Gilbert district.
To help smooth the transition for all kindergartners - and their parents - principal Becky Henderson hosted a question-and-answer time immediately after the start of class Wednesday.
But nerves must have been high for everyone. Barely a doughnut was eaten.
During the time, parents asked a lot of questions. Many of them centered around transportation to and from school, as well as what the child may do during the day.
"Half the time they don't know where they have to get off," Henderson said of the kindergartners riding the bus. But instructional aides and bus assistants are drilled in how to help the children make that leap. Plus, Henderson said, bus drivers won't leave the little ones at a bus stop without someone to walk them home.
Parents who have schedules that change weekly - or even daily - regarding where the child is going after school can communicate this through the children's backpacks, Henderson said. Parents were also advised to call the teacher, e-mail or call the front office.
Julia Miles, a 12-year veteran preschool teacher in the East Valley, suggests parents of kindergartners give children room to build their confidence.
"Let kids develop confidence in their bus-riding skills rather than driving them the first week. Still nervous? Follow the bus to school to make sure your precious cargo arrives safely," she said.
Harris' Henderson offered another tip for parents: Don't be surprised if your kindergartner takes a few days to get used to eating at school. Henderson told the story of a young girl who refused to eat lunch for several days. The school kept in contact with her mom. Finally, it was noted that the young girl enjoyed cereal. So she brought that to school each day for the rest of the year.
Kindergartners - even if they've been in a daycare setting - may be exhausted at the end of the school day for the first week or so, Henderson said. And though there is no formal nap time during class anymore, most kindergarten teachers offer a quiet reading time after lunch. If a child sneaks in a catnap, Henderson lets them.
Reading, counting and math will dominate a kindergartner's day this year as the state implements the new national Common Core Standards - an initiative to raise the bar in education.
"I think he'll be able to do it," Jackie said about K.J. He's smart and his teacher's been doing this for 22 years. I know she'll work with him."
Arizona also requires that all children meet a set reading level by the end of third grade or risk being held back in school. That starts with this year's first-graders, meaning this year's kindergartners will also fall under the new law.
Miles said parents should pay attention to any notes that come home in a child's backpack. Keep informed about what's going on in the classroom, she said.