The start of the 2018-2019 school year is only a few days away. While everyone in the school district is looking forward to another great year working with the children in our community, now is a great time to revisit some important items that can help ensure a good start to another successful school year.
According to the district calendar that is posted on the district website, orientation day will be held at all schools on Thursday, Aug. 30. All elementary and middle school families are expected to visit their schools to check in with classroom teachers and get ready for the first day of school (4K orientation plans are specific to each provider). Ninth grade students will have a full day of orientation on Aug. 30 at Menomonie High School from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and the first full day of school for all students will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 4.
Now is a good time for families to start thinking about school year routines that often include a regular bedtime and a family meal together when possible. According to an article posted on Education.com, both children and adults feel the most secure when their lives are predictable. While it is important to be flexible when needed, having a regular routine teaches children how to arrange their time in a manner that is efficient, productive, and cuts down on stress.
One issue that is becoming a more common concern for families is establishing an appropriate amount of “screen time” for children. There is much debate surrounding this issue, and as technology becomes more pervasive in our everyday lives, research has struggled to keep up. The American Academy of Pediatrics has some specific recommendations for screen time with kids ages 5 and under and then shifts to encouraging families to develop their own media use plans in the information provided for school-aged children and adolescents.
Finding the right balance of screen time often varies for each family. This is part of the reason research organizations have not made specific formal recommendations for the use of technology with school-aged children. The good news is that there are a lot of great resources available for creating a family media plan.
One helpful resource is Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization that focuses on creating resources for parents and educators to evaluate media and technology for kids. A portion of their website is dedicated to parent concerns, and it is no surprise that screen time is a prominent feature. The website includes a video series, compiled articles, and a question/answer section focused on screen time which can all be filtered based on the age of the child. Some ideas that families might want to consider while setting expectations for school-aged children might include:
- Promoting recommended levels of daily physical activity and sleep.
- Avoiding exposure to devices for one hour before bedtime and not allowing devices in bedrooms throughout the night.
- Discouraging entertainment media while doing homework.
- Designating media-free times together and media-free locations in homes.
- Communicating guidelines to other caregivers so that media rules are followed consistently.
Along with establishing a regular family routine at home, now is a good time to also think about how parents plan to communicate with classroom teachers. With the amount of time that teachers spend with students, and the lasting impact that educators have of the children’s lives, it is important that parents help create an effective partnership with the school through open lines of communication. Providing the school district accurate contact information, letting office staff know of any scheduled or unplanned absences, attending orientation and parent teacher conferences, and communicating questions, concerns, and compliments to school staff are a few of the ways that parents can help their children have a successful school year.
Should families or other school district stakeholders have any questions or concerns about the upcoming school year, I invite you to visit the Administrative Service Center (ASC) or contact me at 715-232-1642. More information about our schools can be found on the school district website (www.sdmaonline.com), on Twitter (www.twitter.com/sdmaonline) and on Facebook (www.facebook.com/menomonie.schools).
*Thank you to SDMA Director of Technology Services Katie Krueger for contributing to this article.
Joe Zydowsky, Ph.D. is the district administrator for the School District of the Menomonie Area.
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