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It’s a ‘great way’ to start the school year

‘Unpack Your Backpack Night’ helps both students and parents

LOSTANT — Starting a new school year is an exciting time for students, teachers and parents, but this occasion also involves a number of challenges.

Students, particularly younger ones, have to overcome a fear of the unknown. Teachers have to get to know an entire classroom of new faces. Parents scramble to get through the stores to find all of the necessary school supplies.

However, Lostant Grade School has found a way to largely circumvent these obstacles. The “Unpack Your Backpack Night” was held the evening before the first day of school and it was well attended and full of promise.

“This is a great way for kids to meet their teachers,” Superintendent Sandra Malahy said.

Students and their families visited the school for a brief orientation presented by Malahy in the gymnasium. Following that, a visit to the cafeteria provided a nutritious dinner. Children and their parents then made their way to the various classrooms to meet teachers and unpack their school supplies.

How Lostant Grade School handles the issue of school supplies is where the uniqueness of the event is revealed. For $25, the school provides all required supplies for the entire year, freeing parents from the stress of finding a multitude of items at a much greater expense.

“It’s $25 versus hundreds of dollars, plus it saves you the headache and madness of going to Walmart,” Jennifer Mertel, a parent and school bookkeeper, said.

“It’s also nice that in the middle of the year, you don’t need to worry about having to get to the store that night to get a notebook,” Jessica Flaherty, a parent and school administrative assistant, said.

“It’s really nice that if a student needs a pencil, they just need to go to the office and they’re given a new pencil,” Principal Nick McLaughlin said.

This is McLaughlin’s first year at Lostant, and he was appreciative of the opportunity “Unpack Your Backpack Night” provided.

“I don’t know anyone, so this is a great opportunity for me to get to meet everyone and begin to learn their names and faces. It’s making me more excited for tomorrow (the first day of school),” he said.

The school also uses its summer school program to both familiarize younger students with school life and to help prevent the dreaded “summer slide” in older students.

“Fifty percent of our students attend our summer school. It’s a good jump-start into the new school year for our older students, and it’s great for our kindergartners,” Malahy said.

She explained how having kindergartners participate in summer school relieves the anxiety they may be feeling and allows them to experience school in small doses.

“We pack art, math, reading, a snack and recess into three hours for them. They also get to become familiar with the routine of using the school bus. Then when they begin the school year, there’s nothing for them to be afraid of, they already know the building, have met teachers and some of their fellow students, and are familiar with some of our routines,” she said.

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