ARGILLITE Everything is new for Argillite’s youngest pupils — the yawning classroom, the big yellow bus, the smiling teachers.

Also new is lining up to go outside, hushing up when the teacher talks and staying up all day without a nap.

That is why schools like Argillite devote several days before the start of school each year to kinder camp, a sort of trial run for incoming kindergartners.

About 30 of the 48 kindergartners enrolled this year attended kinder camp, according to Carrie Glass, one of two kindergarten teachers at Argillite.

It is a two-day event; the first day is devoted to familiarizing children with the school, teachers, classmates and procedures. On the second day children are assessed to determine their readiness to take on the academic challenges of modern-day kindergarten.

Children need the orientation so they can dive right into kindergarten academics the first day of school. “Kindergarten used to be playing well with others and cut and paste. What used to be kindergarten is preschool now,” teacher Jackie Martin said on the playground, minutes before she and Glass took a head count and led the children back to the classroom. “By the time kindergarten is over we want them to be reading and have a good sense of numbers,” she said.

Just as important, kindergartners are entering a new world they have to navigate without benefit of a parent within hand-holding distance. Children need the time they spend at kindercamp to become familiar with their new world.

Buses, for instance — some children, in particular those who didn’t attend preschool, have never ridden one before, so part of the Argillite kindercamp was a bus ride to Greenbo Lake and back. The children learn the proper procedures for boarding and exiting, and the importance of proper behavior during the ride. “We don’t want them to be overwhelmed on the first day,” Martin said.

While the children are with teachers, parents gather in the library with the school counselor and learn about resources they may need for their children.

Kindercamp is orientation for them, too — practice for being away from their children.

Argillite tries to make the break as gentle as possible. On the first day of school, kindergarten parents are permitted to walk their children to class. After the goodbyes and the inevitable tears, parents adjourn to the cafeteria for what is dubbed the “boo-hoo breakfast.”

“On the first day, the parents sometimes cry more than the students do,” Glass said.

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Mike James is The Independent's education reporter. He has covered news in Northeast Kentucky since 1996.