Sending your children off to kindergarten can be nerve-racking for many parents. What if your child doesn’t make any friends? What if you don’t connect with any of the parents? Well, parents at one San Jose school are doing something about these worries, and are helping build a stronger community in the process.
Hammer Montessori at Galarza Elementary is a public Montessori magnet school in the San Jose Unified School District. For the past two years, parents at Hammer have held informal summer play dates to connect new and returning families. The Hammer Montessori Foundation (HMF) sponsored this year’s play dates, which included a Welcome Brunch the Saturday before school began.
“Two summers ago, parents planned and hosted park dates for new families, giving them a chance to connect before school even started,” explains HMF President Jody Chang. “Those park dates continued this past summer, and we hope it will become a tradition that returning families offer to new families.”
Julie Januario, parent of a kindergartner, says the play dates helped her son feel comfortable starting at a new school. “It helped Aiden meet other children that go to Hammer and get excited about school,” she says.
“The new parents comment about how exciting it is for their kids to meet other new students so they won’t be so nervous on their first day of school,” shares Hammer parent Cathy Giblin, who helped plan and publicize the play dates.
Giblin notes that the parent community has many ways to stay connected. “We have a Yahoo group and Facebook page that we encourage new and waiting-list families to join. It is a great way to ask questions and receive information about the school, policies and events.”
Giblin also explains that the play dates are not just for the new families. “The returning parents talk about how much fun it is to meet the new families and also reconnect during the summer with the returning families,” she says.
Even some Hammer staff turned out for the play dates. Hammer Associate Principal Lynn Belmonte says, “I enjoyed meeting some of the new parents in the park over the summer and greatly appreciate the efforts of our current parents who reached out to help them feel welcomed and supported.”
Giblin observes that parent involvement is important to the Hammer parent community. “The parents are very helpful and willing to participate and very interested in their children’s education.”
Chang adds that, “Since Hammer is a magnet school that families must proactively choose, a strong parent community is a key factor in our recruitment of new families. It’s exciting to experience that community deepening year by year at our school.”
For more information about Hammer Montessori, visit http://www.sjusd.org/school/hammer. More details about the Hammer Montessori Foundation can be found at http://hammerfoundation.org/.