Get a jump start
It’s not too early to start planning ahead for the next school year
February is a great time for you to start planning your student’s transition to the next school year.
You’re probably thinking that it is way too early because your child is only a little more than halfway through this year. But it’s never too early to start planning for your child’s next school year, particularly if they are moving on to another school. Parents and children become naturally comfortable with the school in which they are involved, so planning ahead will help you and your child have a positive approach to the inevitable changes in schedule, personnel, programs or physical layout of the new grade level or new school.
Visit your child’s new school or classroom. Sometimes it may just be a visit to a different part of the building if your child is moving from the lower elementary grades to the upper, or it could be to a new building if they are going to another school. If administration informs you that it hasn’t been determined yet what teacher your child will have – which is usually the case – ask for a brief visit with each teacher.
Taking a tour of their rooms and asking to speak with each of the teachers briefly will help you and your child begin to get to know them, and for them to begin to get to know you and your child.
Even if your child isn’t moving to a new school building, he or she may be in a new area of the current school. The bathrooms may be in a different spot, or it may be a different walk to the nurse’s office or lunchroom. If they are moving from the lower elementary level to the upper, there may be more changes during the day, including different classroom teachers for math/science and English/social studies, or “specials” in separate classrooms. It’s really helpful to get to know those changes so you can prepare your child for them.
Map out the plan
If your child has an IEP or a 504 plan, ask to meet with the new educational team in February. You’ll want to meet next year’s case manager and the other specialists involved with your child. Write down questions you may have about the programs and services they offer, and be ready to talk about the needs of your child. The earlier you start working with your child’s team, the better the experience will be next year.
Then map out a structured transition plan for your child. This doesn’t mean everything needs to be decided by the end of February for the next year, just that you are starting the process. If developmentally and/or age-appropriate, your child should attend that meeting, as it’s important for all to hear what their feelings and ideas are about the upcoming school year.
It’s also a great way for the new team to get to know your child without the mayhem of the usual back-to-back spring IEP/504 meetings. This gives everyone the chance to begin proactive communication and collaboration to forge a positive team approach throughout the following year.
When August comes around, you, your child and the team will be happy you began preparing now for next year.
Elizabeth Feingold retired from Kearsarge Regional School District, where she worked for over 30 years as a special education teacher and coordinator at the elementary, middle and high school levels. She is now a consultant and advocate. She can be reached through www.seacservices.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.