Cincinnati Family Magazine

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May 29, 2024

back-to-school check list

Your Big, Back-to-School Check List

Be ready for the launch of the school year with these helpful tips!

Summer comes and goes and here you are planning for the new school year in a flash — good thing you’ve got a back-to-school checklist! It is easy to lose grasp of your kids’ progress, assignments, classwork, school events and parent-teacher conferences, so we spoke with some local school experts to help you stay on top of your parenting game this school year.
    Here is everything you need to know about communicating with teachers, being present and keeping up with your kids’ assignments throughout the year.

New to Know

The number one: make sure your kids are registered. Whether you’re new to the school district or not, send in all transportation, health and final forms to the school. Experts from Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) say this includes updating addresses, contact information, vaccinations and more.      
    Before the first day of school, you should also check your school’s bell schedule and confirm transportation, according to CPS. 
     It’s easy to get caught up in the stress and hustle and bustle of school prepping, so don’t forget to check in with your kids and get them excited about the new school year, says Mallory Bonbright, communications relations director at Sycamore Schools. 
       “The best thing you can do is have a positive attitude and get your student(s) excited about back-to-school!”says Bonbright.
     “Complete all of your forms, updating your contact information, checking your student’s bus route for the new year and getting school supplies.”

Get Involved

You are your kids’ number one advocate! This goes for showing them your interest in their school journey and activities often — it helps them mentally and academically way more than you know.
    “Families and caregivers should be their child’s number one advocate in their educational journey by attending parent-teacher conferences, volunteering, getting involved with parent organizations, reading to and with their children, helping them with their homework and making sure they have a dedicated space at home to study,” according to CPS. 
    We all know this can be easier said than done, especially when you are a busy parent trying to juggle it all. As the school year goes by, it is easy to lose sight of what is happening in and outside of the classroom. All you can do is your best, so by doing just that, you can keep engaged with your kids’ learning.“ For example, “Be Present” is a key placeholder Cincinnati Public Schools emphasizes all year-round.

Join Your PTO

Another great way to stay involved with happenings in your kids’ school is to sign up for volunteer opportunities or get involved with the PTO. Even full-time working parents can find ways to sneak in a couple volunteer hours at their kids’ school. It doesn’t have to be a lot  — showing up for your kids’ field day, taking a day off to chaperone a field trip or even helping out with lunch or recess duty can really brighten your kids’ year. 
    Bonbright suggests finding out what parent/family organizations your school offers as well. For example, the Sycamore School District has PTO groups that do everything from fundraise to plan fun events at schools.
    “Also, ask your student’s teachers if they need any family volunteers or opportunities to connect classroom activities with things you can do at home,” she continues. “Be sure to read that weekly newsletter, as well as follow your school’s social media pages.”

Extra Curriculurs

In addition to art, gym, music and tech (non-core classes) there are lots of after-school clubs, classes and activity opportunities your kids’ school may partner with. Keeping up with weekly newsletter can help keep in touch with opportunities that meet your kids’ interests.

    “Schools and partners provide club, class and activity opportunities specific to students’ interests,” according to CPS. “Families can contact the school about specific activities, but should also look for sign-up opportunities at the start of the school year.”
    Beginning around the intermediate level, kids have the opportunity to explore more extracurriculars including fine arts such as band, orchestra, choir and theater in the intermediate levels, says Bonbright.
    It’s important to attend your kids’ open house so you can get information about their non-core curriculum schedule. Pop it in your calendar or get a calendar from their teacher that shows what extracurricular activities they are doing throughout the week. 

    “Attend parent-teacher conferences and consider joining the PTO at your child’s school,” suggests CPS.
    Before your kids head to school, it’s helpful to remind them what they have going on that day and when they come home, ask them specific questions such as, “What did you do in music class today?” This open-ended question allows them to answer more than just “Good!” or “Boring,” plus it shows you are involved and interested in their day. It’s a win-win for everyone.

 

Fire and Safety Drills

It’s happened to all of us – we get the email from the school stating they had a safety drill that day and you forgot to mentally prepare your kids for it – don’t worry. Sometimes the school won’t let you know in advance either because they are preparing your kids and you for an emergency situation. 

    “While the drills are not always announced in advance, schools typically inform students and staff to remind them it’s a drill,” CPS reports. “Parents and guardians with questions about the process and procedures are encouraged to reach out to their school’s principal and leadership team.”

    The state of Ohio regulations actually require annual drills, and every school has their own protocol to conduct these drills throughout the year to prepare students and the staff, she continues. According to ohio.gov, “students must also be given instruction regarding precautions to be taken in the event of a tornado alert or warning.”

 

Staying in Touch

To ensure you are in the loop with school happenings and classroom events, be sure to update all of your contact information with your school district now. It’s easy to assume the district has your most up-to-date e-mail, for example. Don’t make the mistake of not updating your latest e-mail and missing out on important back-to-school information at the beginning of the year.

    “Some teachers may contact parents about their student or the district may call with important updates,” CPS advises. “Parents should also subscribe to, and read, their district newsletter.”

Ohio Changes

In April of this year, there was a change to the Afterschool Child Enrichment (ACE) educational savings account program meaning that qualifying families can now receive $1,000 per child for enrichment and educational activities during the 2023 – 2024 school year. According to CPS, more students now qualify to receive assistance for the upcoming school year.
    Also, swatting (making prank calls) is now a felony in Ohio. The law — which also went into effect in April — targets callers who deliberately report false information to law enforcement.
    “Several school districts in Ohio have been subject to these types of threats which disrupt education,” according to CPS. This resulted in several school districts being awarded school safety grants from the state in the 2022 – 2023 school year.”
    Keep a lookout and ask your district about safety upgrades at your kids’ school this fall as a result of the grants.

Staying Organized and Helping Your Kids

As the year goes on, it’s easy for homework, school paperwork and projects to pile up. Trying to juggle all of the to-dos while having a family life is challenging. Bonbright suggests establishing a family calendar to keep track of important dates and events plus developing a consistent daily routine for homework, mealtime and fun can help you stay on track and not lose sight of things. 

“Create a dedicated workspace for homework to help your child stay focused,” she continues. “Maintain open lines of communication with your child’s teachers. Regularly check emails, newsletters and social media for important announcements and updates.”
    Not only is it important to keep an open line of communication with your kids, family and teachers, it’s also helpful to encourage your kids to take ownership of their to-dos and responsibilities, as well as time management, Bonbright says. Check in with your kids on a regular basis – you never know what support they need or what they are struggling with.
    All said and done, we know how important it is to be prepared for back-to-school, but also keep in mind to not lose sight of the “now,” says Bonbright.
    “We as parents tend to fast forward through August and miss out on fleeting opportunities to enjoy our families and the end of summer.”
    We have said it once and we will say it again and again – they are only little once, so enjoy the time you have together now before the first day of school!

Amanda Hayward is the editor of this publication and a mom of three with another due this month.

 

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About the Author

Amanda Hayward

Amanda Hayward is editor of this publication. She is from Cincinnati, Ohio, and a mom of three with one on the way. If she's not writing for Cincinnati Family, you'll find her running, juggling kids, teaching group fitness classes and cooking up healthy recipes.