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First day can be harder for those new to elementary, middle or high school

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Classes begin today in Hardin County, E'town schools

By Kelly Cantrall

As Kim Crowder called out colors, the children circled around her feet happily responded back with “I have orange on!” or “Call green!” Crowder, a kindergarten teacher at Howevalley Elementary School, was showing students how to line up to leave the classroom and was choosing them by the color of their clothes.

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They weren’t technically students yet, however; Crowder and her fellow kindergarten teachers were working with incoming kindergartners July 27 to prepare them for the first day of school today as part of a program called Kindercamp.

Kindercamp and similar programs ease kindergartners into their first major school transition, and administrators elsewhere in local districts work to ease the other big moves in a student’s school career — the beginning of middle and high school.

At Howevalley, students experienced riding a school bus and met teachers, while their parents met in the library upstairs with Principal Beth Handel.

Handel said it’s important to build a partnership with parents while making students comfortable. The first couple of weeks are spent working on basic routines of school.

Kindercamp is a big part of making that first school transition less scary, Handel said.

Students who attend the camp have fewer problems with the transition, she said.

Kindergarten teacher Betty Jaggers said the camp eases the anxiety of going to a new school building, which she said is

“just hard.” Even after 26 years of teaching, she said she still didn’t sleep the night before Kindercamp.

“This was like the first day of school for me,” she said, laughing.

There is no camp when students leave their elementary schools behind and enter sixth grade, but students typically have an opportunity to see their new schools before the first day. Parents and students wandered the sixth-grade hallway at

J.T. Alton Middle School on July 26 during sixth-grade open house to meet teachers and familiarize themselves with the building.

It’s clear open houses are not just to ease concerns of the child. Cindy Bewley of Rineyville said of her daughter, Megan, that it’s “just hard to see her move on.

“I’m more nervous than she is,” Bewley said.

But some students are ready to move on from their elementary school ways, including Jaylon Hurt.

“I’m excited that we actually have lockers now,” Hurt said.

Special education teacher Sarah Howard said teachers see that students are ready to feel a little bit closer to adulthood.

“They’re kind of ready for a change,” Howard said.

Once students reach freshman year, they’re even closer to that goal, but that doesn’t change that they’re “the smallest person in the school again,” said Courtney Atcher, an incoming freshman finding her way  Monday around Elizabethtown High School.

“Just being in high school” makes this transition hard, Atcher said.

“It’s really nerve-wracking. I have no idea where anything is,”  she said.

Freshmen have an orientation at Elizabethtown High to get them acquainted with the building, Principal Steve Smallwood said.

While Smallwood is overseeing the freshmen transition, at home, he is helping a kindergartner and sixth-grader make their own moves into new years and new buildings. Smallwood said while freshmen have past experience to draw on, some kindergartners are experiencing school for the first time and sixth-graders are new at switching classes and teachers.

“Sixth (grade) can be just as traumatic as kindergarten year,” he said.

Kelly Cantrall can be reached at (270) 505-1747 or kcantrall@thenewsenterprise.com.