As Ryan Buchanan lead his mom, Toni, by the hand into his first-grade classroom at Soldotna Elementary Thursday, his eyes lit up with excitement.
“Let me show you my desk mom,” he said. “And this is where I keep my gym shoes.”
Toni said it was important for her to attend her son’s open house event to get a feel for his classroom and meet his teacher. She said it was also important to get a snapshot of his daily routine.
“So we can carry that on at home,” she said. “He loves school.”
Several schools opened their doors to parents last week during the annual open house events held in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District.
Parents, students and school staff gathered for the after hours events to meet and discuss the new school year. It was also time to allow students to share their classrooms and activities with parents and siblings.
Teri Diamond, Soldotna Elementary principal, spent a few minutes with parents in the gym, explaining the importance of good attendance, as well as the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) program new to the school this year.
“It was mostly just a welcome,” Diamond said.
She estimated about 150 parents and students attended, with more stopping by as they got off work or after dinner. Hot dogs, chips and drinks were served in the gym to help with the time frame of the evening event.
Diamond said that this was the first year the open house event was held after school started. In previous years the event was held the night before the start of school.
After the presentation, parents filed out of the gym, lead by their students, to their classrooms.
Parents of more than half of Tracy Jamison’s first-grade class attended the event, including Buchanan. Jamison has 17 students this year.
Jamison said she was happy to see so many parents attend and enjoyed that the event was held after school started.
“I think I like it better,” she said, “because I can get more specific information because I have my schedule and we have been practicing it for seven days. And the kids know (it), and they can come right in and show off the room, where before if they came the night before they’re just learning the room. So I think it becomes more of a family-home feel. The school becomes more of a comfortable place.”
Jamison said she helped prepare her students for the open house by talking about the special areas in the room. Students also showed their parents the class rules and all their favorite places.
“They felt real comfortable, they wanted to show it off,” she said. “It was neat to see.”
During the two hours, Jamison spoke with parents, explained volunteering options and answered questions.
“I think they were very happy, comfortable and excited to see their kids show-off their classroom,” she said.
Kenai Central High School also had back to school event on Thursday. KCHS principal Alan Fields said he estimated parent attendance at 200.
Fields said he spoke to parents about what each grade level could expect to be working on as a class this school year, as well as stressing the importance of attendance.
He also explained the evening’s schedule, consisting of ten-minute class periods and five minute passing periods.
“The five minute passing periods allow parents to understand just how much time students have between classes,” Fields said.
Fields said he proudly shared with the group that last year’s graduation rate at KCHS was more than 91 percent, explaining that the school expects their students to be successful and staff takes every measure to ensure that success.
One important part of school success is parental involvement.
“It’s important that parents attend open house because a vast majority of their son or daughter’s day is spent at school. It is important that they get to know their child’s teachers,” he said. “Teachers influence who children become and it’s important that parents know the other people who influence their kids lives.”
He said the events are highly important for parent-teacher relations.
“Students’ chances of success are increased when we all work together. It sends an important message to your child. It says ‘I’m willing to be an active participant.’ Parents who attend school functions and work with their child’s teachers not only want their children to success, they are a part of making that success happen.”
Reach Sara Hardan at firstname.lastname@example.org.