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Back to School: Local educators offer tips to prepare for new year

By Lauren West

NATCHEZ — As summer winds down, local educators say now is the time for parents and children in Natchez to prepare and organize for the upcoming school year.

In addition to making sure uniforms, backpacks, lunch boxes and school supplies are ready, parents and children can get a jump start on academic success with a few simple tips from teachers and educators.

Develop schedules and routines

Adams County Christian School Elementary Principal Angela Cotten said it is important to reestablish a sleep routine to prepare children for their transition.

“It’s good to have them go to bed and wake up earlier,” Cotten said.

Every new school year brings a unique opportunity to establish habits at home that will lead to a productive academic year.

In addition to a new sleep pattern, Cotten said it is wise for both parents and children to buy a planner or a calendar to properly manage the rigorous academic and extracurricular activities, especially for children who love playing sports.

Concordia Parish School District Superintendent Whest Shirley said a positive step forward could be designating a room or area in the house dedicated to homework and studying before the school year begins.

“Prepare a study area and plan a study time that’s good for your family,” Shirley said.

Familiarize children with the school and teachers

Shirley also said in addition to attending the open house orientations offered by each school, parents are encouraged to go an extra step visiting the school before and after the orientations.

“Start visiting the school during your free time with your child so that they will be familiar with their surroundings,” he said.

Natchez Freshman Academy Principal Larry E. Hooper Jr. said parents should begin to develop a rapport with new teachers and keep an open line of communication, even before the school year begins.

“I encourage all parents to meet and talk to teachers on a regular basis,” Hooper said. “It also helps for parents to join the PTA, donate supplies and observe classrooms when they can.”

Get ahead and practice old skills 

While many children this summer have enjoyed riding their bikes, swimming in the pool, and watching cartoons, the last few weeks of summer are a perfect time for children to get their minds back in school mode, educators said.

Both Shirley and Cotten recommend parents start reading with or to their children regularly, whether it be once a day or a few times a week.

Aside from getting an early start on the summer reading lists, it is useful to use online resources to brush up on skills children learned the previous academic year.

Cotten said she suggests parents get students back into practicing math drills by using websites like multiplication.com.

Hooper said he recommends that students visit brainpop.com, an animated educational learning website that focuses on all the core subjects for elementary and middle school children to practice and learn.

Take advantage of additional resources

Educators said most schools offer educational tools for students and parents.

Hooper said all parents should visit the Mississippi Department of Education’s website to familiarize themselves with academic standards and find family resources to support their child’s educational journey.

Hooper also said that parents should take advantage of the Natchez-Adams School District Parent Center, 319 Seargent S. Prentiss Drive, which provides resources and technical assistance to parents to increase parent involvement with all stages of their children’s education.

“The center is especially good for parents who do not have computer or internet access,” Hooper said.

It is a good idea for parents to familiarize themselves with their districts’ web portals and downloadable apps to track your child’s academic progress, attendance and upcoming events, such as ActiveParent.

Keep a Positive Attitude

And, lastly, back-to-school time is a big transition, not only for parents but for children too.

Educators said it is beneficial for parents to maintain a positive attitude throughout the school year because it will make a significant difference in the children’s academic success. And while it is important to remember that a school is a place to work hard, it is also a place for fun.

“Embrace the excitement,” said Jean Biglane, a high school AP English teacher at Cathedral School, “Recognize that school is your job, and be committed to bringing your best effort to it.”

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