Kindergartners and parents take a giant step

Nina and Ruby Jephcote try out the playground at the Martha's Vineyard Public Charter School in West Tisbury. Photo by Julian Wise
Nina (left) and Ruby Jephcote try out the playground at their new school, the Martha's Vineyard Public Charter School in West Tisbury. Photos by Julian Wise

By Julian Wise - September 7, 2006

Their shoelaces are firmly tied. Backpacks hang loosely over their tiny frames. They're dressed in clean, new outfits. Their lunch boxes have been meticulously packed. These are the kindergartners of the 2006-2007 school year, ready to take the largest and longest step of all the Island's students in September. For no other pupils does the school's front entrance loom so large, the bus seem so loud and crowded, and the classroom so vivid and novel. Parents preparing their children for this big day experience a variety of thoughts and emotions.

Amy and her daughter Emma Fournier have prepared for Emma's first day of kindergarten at the West Tisbury School. Photo by Julian Wise
Amy and her daughter Emma Fournier have prepared for Emma's first day of kindergarten at the West Tisbury School.

Mary Lee Carlomagno is preparing her five-year-old daughter Meredith for the West Tisbury School Kindergarten. "She's very excited about it," Ms. Carlomagno reports. "She's on the older side of children her age, so she's ready."

Ms. Carlomagno's other children are 14 and 11, so the experience of sending a young child off to school for the first time has become familiar. "The first time it's the biggest deal," she recalls. "You just worry about them being ready, if they're gong to be able to handle everything successfully. By the third one you're a little more relaxed."

Josh Sommers's daughter Isabelle is making the transition from the Island Children's School to the West Tisbury School. He reports that Isabelle is ready to join her older sister Sarah at the school.

"She's excited about going," Mr. Sommers says. "She's looking forward to it and has several friends from her previous school. It's a positive experience in advance."

Mr. Sommers is candid in describing the emotions parents experience as they watch their child make the transition from preschooler to public school student. "It's a little frightening because you can start to see them becoming older and independent and getting their day-to-day lives away from you," he says. "It's also exciting because as they get older, every age has its beauty and wonders."

Amy Fournier's daughter Emma has experienced some nervousness about entering the West Tisbury School kindergarten. Ms. Fournier says the school has been proactive in easing the transition into the school.

"Back in June they have a visiting day, where they get to go into the classroom and the class currently in kindergarten gives them a tour," Ms. Fournier says.

Since then, Emma has received a letter from her teacher, Teri Mello, describing the kindergarten experience and inviting her in to explore the classroom over the summer. Emma has had the opportunity to pick out a cubby and become acquainted with the playground.

"The first day of school is emotional," says Ms. Fournier, whose kindergarten hopes for Emma include developing basic reading skills and building social confidence with her peers. "It's a positive thing."

For parents of twins, the experience of preparing for kindergarten is doubled. Stacy Jephcote of West Tisbury is preparing to send her identical twin daughters Ruby and Nina to the Martha's Vineyard Public Charter School.

"Ruby says she is excited to go to kindergarten because she gets to see her friends again. Nina thinks she's going to get A's in kindergarten."

Ms. Jephcote says there's added security in sending them off together. "They have each other," she says. Her son Henry will be a fourth grader at the Charter School and she recalls dropping him off for the first day of kindergarten and feeling that he was on his own. In contrast, the girls will have each other for company, comfort and support.

Ms. Jephcote has prepared twice as many doctor's visits, physical exams, conference schedules, and school supplies. "It can be kind of hectic," she laughs.

Ms. Jephcote says she hopes for a year in which the girls have fun, feel secure in their new learning environment, and develop a firm foundation of academic skills.

"This is the jumping-off point for what will hopefully be a positive and enriching learning experience in the school system."

Julian Wise is a frequent contributor to The Times, specializing in music, film, and the performing arts.