Kindergarten FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions from Incoming K-5 Families at Thoreau School

Published by the Thoreau School Parent Teacher Group

August 2015

Q:  How do I know what time the bus is going to come and where it will stop?

A:  Bus schedules are first published in mid- to late August and are updated several times through the first week or two of school.  A printed version may appear in The Concord Journal in late August and a current soft copy is maintained at the school district website at http://www.concordpublicschools.net/.  At the website, open the “Administration” pull-down menu at the top of the page, find the “Transportation” section and click on “School Bus Routes.”  Kindergarten families will need to check the schedules for both the regular bus route and the kindergarten-only bus route, which are listed separately and have different drop-off times.

Every morning and on Monday/Wednesday/Friday afternoons, kindergarteners (excluding walkers) are picked up and dropped off with the grade 1-5 students at designated neighborhood stops on the regular bus route.  On Tuesday afternoons that are on a full day for grades 1-5 and every Thursday afternoon, all kindergarteners including walkers ride special kindergarten-only buses and get dropped off at their homes or designated stops. On Tuesday afternoons that are on an early release day for grades 1-5, the walkers do not take a bus home and the other kindergarteners get dropped off with the grade 1-5 students at their assigned stops on their regular bus routes.  Check the Concord Public Schools calendar on the school district website to find out which days are early release days for grades 1-5 (open the “Resources” pull-down menu and choose “School Calendars.”

The transportation office recommends that you be at the curb 5-10 minutes before your published pickup/drop-off time.  Expect buses to arrive earlier than stated, since the schedules are created assuming that all students will ride the bus daily even though some do not.

If you have any questions regarding your child’s bus schedules, please contact the transportation office at 978-318-1433.

Q:  Where will my child sit on the bus?

A:  The bus driver designates a set of rows in the bus for each grade.  All kindergarteners sit near the driver at the front of the bus.  Grades 1-5 are assigned rows in numeric order, from grade 1 just behind the kindergarteners to grade 5 at the back of the bus.

Q:  Am I allowed on the bus?

A:  No, parents are not allowed on the bus.

Q:  Will my child have the same bus driver every day?

A:  Not necessarily.  Although each route will have a regular driver, a substitute will occasionally be assigned in the absence of the regular driver.

Q:  Will my kindergartener’s bus driver on kindergarten-only afternoons be the same as on
early release days?

A:  No, kindergarten-only routes are designed separately from regular routes.  Each kindergarten-only route will have its own driver with a substitute assigned only occasionally.

Q:  How will my child find their way to the classroom when they get off the bus at school?

A:  For the first two weeks of school, all kindergarteners will be escorted from their bus to their classroom by school specialists to ensure that everyone arrives safely.  Name badges are mailed to incoming kindergarteners in late August to help the specialists identify them among the older students.  Please make sure your child wears his or her name badge as they board the bus for the first few weeks of school.  Their teacher will collect the badges when they are no longer needed for the bus and will keep them for future uses such as field trips, etc.

Returning students in grades 1-5 are typically familiar enough with the school buildings to find their way to their classrooms, so an escort is not provided and name badges are usually not sent.  However, new grade 1-5 students and any other children who are not confident are welcome to ask one of the many adults who are greeting each arriving bus for directions and/or assistance.

An open house event will be held at the school shortly before the start of the year.  This is the perfect time for you and your child to review and practice their walk from the school entrance to their classroom.

Q:  How will my child find their way to the correct bus after school?

A:  Each teacher brings their students to their buses in the afternoon for the entire school year.  Prior to the start of the year, teachers are given the bus numbers for each neighborhood and after-school care facility, plus a list of student names assigned to each bus number so that they can make sure every child boards the correct bus.  Please confirm your child’s bus number with their teacher at the Thoreau open house event held before the first day of school.

Q:  How do I know my child won’t be let off the bus at the wrong stop on the way home?

A:  No child will be left at a bus stop without their parent or caregiver present.  If no parent is at the stop, the child will remain on the bus and the transportation department will attempt to contact their parents by telephone.  If there is no answer, the child will be returned to Thoreau Elementary School and their emergency contacts on file will be called and asked to pick them up.

If on any day you will be unable to meet your child at the bus stop, please make arrangements to have a listed emergency contact person meet the bus or pick up your child at school.  Please advise the school of the plan.  Children will only be released to parents/caregivers indicated on the school emergency contact list, or to an alternate designated for a specific day via a written note from a parent or guardian.  All buses are equipped with two-way radios for safety, so drivers and the transportation office can communicate with each other if there are any questions or issues.

Q:  Are there any special rules my child and I should know about riding the bus?

A:  Yes, there are ten basic rules for proper conduct when riding the bus.  They are:

  1. Each pupil shall be seated immediately upon entering the bus.  Pupils are not to stand or move from place to place while the bus is in motion.
  2. Windows and doors are to be opened or closed only with the permission of the bus driver. If allowed, windows should only be opened to the indicated safety line.
  3. Indecent conduct or loud, disruptive or profane language will not be permitted.
  4. Passengers are not to behave in any manner which infringes upon the rights of any other passenger. This would include any form or type of bullying.
  5. No pupil is to enter or leave the bus until it has come to a complete stop. Students may enter or leave the bus only upon bus driver signal.
  6. Students are not to throw objects of any kind on the school bus or out the windows. All parts of the student’s body shall remain inside the bus at all times.
  7. Absolutely no tobacco, alcohol or illegal drugs will be allowed on the bus. No food or beverages may be consumed on board.
  8. Bus switches to accommodate after-school events or special childcare arrangements are not allowed, other than recurring switches documented in the Transportation Department’s bus assignments. However, students may get off their normal bus at a different stop or be met by a different caregiver with written permission in advance from their parent or guardian.
  9. Students will not be permitted to bring such items as skate boards, radios, jam boxes, balloons, or glass objects onto the bus. Any other object deemed to be unsafe cargo on the bus will be denied.  The driver will have authority to deny transportation to a student with such articles in his/her possession.  The driver and/or school corporation bears no responsibility for lost, stolen or damaged items brought onto the bus.
  10. The privilege of riding the school bus may be denied to any student who does not conduct himself/herself in a safe and orderly fashion. School bus drivers and administration will determine what is safe and orderly.  The bus driver reserves the right to assign seating for any student(s) that is (are) disruptive in any way.

Additional policies and how-to’s regarding transportation are published in the Parent and Student Elementary School Handbook.  A soft copy of the handbook is available on the Thoreau School’s web site at http://thoreau.colonial.net/.  Click on “General Info” in the left navigation bar to find it.

Q:  Can I bring my child to the classroom myself for the first few days until they get used to school?

A:  No, parents are not allowed to escort their children into the classroom, as it makes for a more difficult transition for all.

Q:  I plan to drive my child to and from school.  Where and how do I drop them off and pick them up?

A:  The pickup/drop-off area is on the corner of West and Prairie Streets.  Parents and other caregivers are to stay at the corner to avoid crowds obstructing the building entrance.  For the first few weeks of school, a specialist will escort kindergarteners being dropped off from this area to their classrooms.  Grade 1-5 students who need directions or assistance can ask one of the many adults who are supervising student arrivals.

As with children riding the bus, if you have a kindergartener and a name badge was mailed to you please make sure that they wear it every day at drop-off until the teacher collects the badges.

Students should be dropped off in time to be in their classrooms by the start of school at 8:55am, but they may enter the building no earlier than 8:45am.

In the afternoons, teachers in all grades escort children being picked up to the same area and hand them off to a waiting parent/caregiver throughout the school year.  If you plan to pick up your child every day, please inform their teacher of this at the open house event just prior to the start of school.  Unless instructed otherwise, teachers will put all students on their assigned buses at dismissal time.

If your child normally rides the bus home but you want to pick them up on a single day, please send in a note advising the teacher of this and meet your child at the pickup/drop-off area.  If you are picking them up earlier than the standard dismissal time, meet your child in the administration office (or in the health office if the early pickup is due to an emerging illness).

There are a few parking spaces adjacent to the parent waiting area designated for student pickup/drop-off.  If these are full in the morning please use street parking.  After 12:00 noon you can also use the back parking lot, but the front parking lot (near the front door) is for staff only all day.  A street parking map can be found on the Thoreau website at http://thoreau.colonial.net/ by clicking on “general info” in the left navigation bar.

Q:  I have heard that we have to label snacks with ingredient lists so that the teachers can verify that the snacks are nut-free before they are allowed into the classroom.  What’s a good way to do this?

A:  The preferred labeling methods vary from classroom to classroom.  Please check with your child’s teacher to learn what’s best for your class.

Q:  I want to send lunch in with my child.  Is there anything special I need to know?

A:  Due to allergy issues in most classrooms it is important to pack your child’s lunch in a separate bag from their snack.  This is because snacks are eaten in the classroom and therefore must be nut-free, while lunch is eaten in the cafeteria and can contain nuts (separate nut-free tables are available in the cafeteria).  Even if your child’s lunch is nut-free, packing it with their snack will require that you label their lunch with ingredient lists and that the teacher check their lunch for allergens as well as their snack.  This causes extra work for everyone.

Don’t pack too many items in your child’s lunch because the lunch period is only 20 minutes long.  Although that may sound too short, teachers report that most children are able to finish eating in this time.  Keeping lunches simple will help to keep this on track.

Q:  Where can I find out what’s being served for school lunch?

A:  School lunch menus are published monthly on the district website at http://www.concordpublicschools.net/.  At the site, open the “Administration” pull-down menu at the top of the page, find the “Food and Nutrition Services” section and choose “School Menus.”

Q:  I want my child to buy lunch today but I don’t think they will like the hot lunch shown on today’s menu.  What other food-for-purchase options do they have?

A:  In addition to the hot entree option published on the school lunch menu, the cafeteria offers soup every day (usually chicken noodle or tomato) and sandwiches (usually peanut butter, peanut butter and jelly, and grilled cheese).  On Fridays, a yogurt/cheese alternate lunch is also available.  There is also a salad bar in the food service area where kids can add vegetables to their tray.  At the end of the salad bar is a large bowl containing the day’s dessert which is available for self-service.  Dessert is typically fresh or preserved fruit but occasionally includes sweeter options such as cinnamon applesauce or pudding.  All of these things and a carton of milk are included in the price of a purchased lunch, which is $3.35 for the 2015-2016 school year but may be subject to change.

Q:  How do I fund my child’s school lunch account?

A:  The food service department recommends maintaining a positive balance of $50 in each student’s lunch account at the beginning of every month.  If you plan to have your child buy lunch or milk, please fund their account by either check or credit card before their first purchase.

Checks should be made out to “Food Service Department” and either dropped off at the Thoreau School office or mailed to the Food Service Department at 120 Meriam Road, Concord, MA 01742.  Write “Thoreau” and the student’s first and last name in the memo line on the check so that it can be credited to the correct account.  Allow 3-5 business days for the funds to become available in your child’s account.  If you need the account to be credited immediately, have your child bring a check or cash to the Thoreau cafeteria register at lunch time.

You may also fund the account with a credit card via the MySchoolBucks website at http://MySchoolBucks.com.  Lunch accounts for new students registered prior to the start of school will be accessible via the MySchoolBucks system by late September.  Payments made online will be credited to the student’s lunch account within 1-2 business days.

Q:  I want my child to buy lunch but I don’t know what to tell them to expect.  How does that work?

A:  One of the first things your child will need to do upon arrival at school each day is declare whether they brought lunch, are buying a hot lunch or are buying the alternate lunch (soup or sandwich).  Their teacher then submits the lunch count for the day to the cafeteria.  It is recommended to check the school lunch menu on each day that your child will be buying lunch and discuss the options with them before school.  The teachers also have the menu available in the classroom and can advise the kids of what the hot lunch offering is when taking lunch counts.

When lunch time comes, each teacher in all grades escorts their students to the cafeteria.

For kindergarteners, the assistant teacher leads the children who brought lunch to tables pre-selected for their class while the head teacher leads those who are buying lunch and/or milk through the food service line.  The head teacher assists with payment at the cash register, shows the kindergarteners their options as they make their food choices and helps them carry their tray if necessary.  The assistant teacher then stays with the class throughout the lunch period to offer assistance and guidance as needed.

For Grades 1-5, students who brought lunch go directly to any table of their choice while those who are buying lunch and/or milk go through the food service line independently.

For all grades, the payment process at the cash register is quick and simple.

For kindergarteners, the teacher finds the student’s lunch account card in a stack at the register.  The child hands the card to the cashier so that the correct account can be debited.  Partway through the year, the teacher begins to prompt the children to type the access number from the card into the keypad at the register instead of giving the card to the cashier.  This prepares them for independent checkout by the time they reach first grade.

Students in grades 1-5 type their own number onto the register’s keypad and verify that the correct name is displayed on the register.  If needed, a child may reference their lunch account card at the register to remember their number so that the correct account can be debited.

The entire lunch purchase process moves quickly enough that students who are buying lunch are typically seated with their food within five minutes.  Lines are not long because the lunch periods are staggered such that only your child’s grade is in the cafeteria during their lunch time.  Each lunch period lasts 20 minutes.

Q:  When I think back to the quality of my own school lunches when I was in elementary school, I wouldn’t want my child eating that same stuff.  What is the school food like at Thoreau?

A:  Many of us still remember school fare that was heavily salted and made primarily with processed meats and canned fruits and vegetables.  If this was your experience, you will find the nutritional quality of today’s school lunch at Thoreau to be better than what you had as a child.

The National School Lunch Program, in which Concord Public Schools participates, has improved the nutritional requirements for students from kindergarten through twelfth grade. These modifications include:

  • ensuring students are offered both fruit and vegetables every day of the week
  • increasing the offerings of whole grain rich foods
  • limiting calories based on the age of children being served
  • increasing the focus on reducing the amounts of saturated fat and trans fat
  • requiring that milk must be fat free (flavored/unflavored) or 1% low fat (unflavored)
  • decreasing sodium over the next 10 years

The USDA built the new recommendations using input from a panel of experts convened by the Institute of Medicine – a gold standard for evidence-based health analysis. The standards were updated with key changes from the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans – the Federal government’s benchmark for nutrition.

Another improvement over our own school days has been a significant reduction of sweets in school lunches.  Although dessert is still offered, it is now typically fresh fruit or low-sugar mixed fruit.  Occasionally a sweeter option is offered such as a small serving of cake or pudding, but most of the time this part of the meal is of the no-sugar-added or low-sugar variety.
If you would like a chance to see firsthand what the kids are being served, volunteer for the Parents at Lunch (PALs) program during the school year.  Volunteers help students in the cafeteria with tasks such as opening lunch containers and wiping down tables between lunch periods.  In the process, you can see for yourself what a typical lunch looks like.  A link to the on-line sign-up form for the PALs program can be found on the Thoreau Parent Teacher Group (PTG) website at www.thoreauptg.org/volunteer.

Q:  Will I be getting a shopping list for school supplies soon?

A:  Although there are a few things you’ll need to get for your child, it will not include the long list of pencils, notebooks, etc that you may expect.  This is because the Thoreau Elementary School generously sets aside funding each year for classroom supplies and procures these items so that you don’t have to.  In addition to this, the Thoreau Parent Teacher Group (PTG) kindly maintains a fund for teachers to use to procure special items not covered by the school budget.  Each teacher uses their allocated funds from the PTG in their own way, so the list of items that each family supplies varies from class to class.  Your teacher will specify any needed items in a letter near the end of August, but typically the list includes a backpack, a change of clothes to keep in the student’s locker and an optional water bottle.  Kindergarteners will also need to bring in a blanket or towel to lie on during quiet time and sometimes a smock or overshirt for messy art projects.

Q:  How do I send in notes for the teacher, permission slips, etc?  Do I rely on my child to hand them in?

A:  Some teachers provide reusable communication envelopes in the children’s backpacks to send papers back and forth with parents.  A teacher or assistant teacher will check this envelope each day for any notes from you.  Some classrooms do not use these and they typically do not go through the kids’ backpacks looking for notes and slips, either.  They do, however, have to go through each snack bag looking for allergens.  So if there is no communication envelope in use, the best way to make sure a teacher finds your note is to put it in with your child’s snack.

Q:  Where can I learn more about what my child will be doing/learning at school?

A:  Your child’s teacher will give a detailed presentation at the Back-to-School Night event in mid-September about what your child’s day is like.  Some teachers also have a typical day’s activities as well as regular reports on actual events listed on their teacher page at the Thoreau School web site.

For a detailed look at the entire year’s learning goals, please explore the curriculum map that is available online.  To find it, visit the school district web site at http://www.concordpublicschools.net/.   Open the “Administration” pull-down menu at the top of the page, find the “Teaching and Learning” section and choose “Curriculum.”  Choose the grade level and topic that interests you from the Curriculum Mapping list.

Q:  What other communications can I expect from Thoreau before school starts?

A:  In a typical summer incoming families receive:

  • Late July – A letter from the school with classroom assignments, classmate lists and an invitation to a classroom open house (open house to take place just before school starts)
  • August – A notification from the school nurse if your child’s health records are incomplete
  • August – A welcome letter from your child’s teacher with details specific to their classroom and a short list of the few things each student needs to bring with them
  • August – A letter from the school nurse with allergy-related snack requirements for your child’s classroom

Q:  What are my on-line resources for information about the Thoreau School and my child’s classroom?

A:  The Thoreau School website at http://thoreau.colonial.net/ includes a set of pages for each classroom where parents can read about what’s happening in school.  Many teachers maintain newsletters on their classroom’s page for up-to-date reporting.  Your classroom’s room parent may also maintain a blog or wiki page for parents/caregivers with additional information such as classroom volunteering opportunities.

The Thoreau Parent Teacher Group (PTG) maintains a very helpful website at https://www.thoreauptg.org where you can learn about the many activities and events happening outside the classroom.

If you provided an email address on your child’s registration form and gave permission for that address to be used by the PTG, starting in mid- to late September you will also receive the group’s e-newsletter called Thoreau PTG Announcements.  This weekly newsletter will give you notifications on many things happening around the school such as student picture day, social events and special dress-up days.  If you do not wish to continue receiving this, you may opt out using the link at the bottom of any issue.  If you wish to start receiving it right away so that you don’t miss the first few issues of the school year, visit the PTG website at www.thoreauptg.org, choose the “Quick Links” pull-down menu and click on “Subscribe.”  Please note that announcements are only published routinely during the school year, with only an occasional post during the summer.

Another good source of information is the Parent and Student Elementary School Handbook, which is available at the Thoreau School web site at http://thoreau.colonial.net/ by clicking on “General Information” in the left navigation bar then choosing “Parent and Student Handbook” from the list. This handbook details policies and procedures on a wide variety of topics ranging from proper footwear to how to pick up your child early from school.

Q:  What printed sources of information should I seek out?

A:  A very useful document is the Thoreau School Directory.  Published by the PTG, the directory provides student listings by classroom with parent/guardian contact information for those who opt to be included (permission to include your contact information is given by checking a box on your child’s school registration form).  The directory also includes the Concord Public Schools calendar, the PTG event calendar and contact information for all Thoreau teachers and other staff members.  The directory is a helpful resource for connecting with the Thoreau families in your neighborhood and communicating with other parents you’ll meet at school events.

Q:  Where can I purchase the school directory?

A:  The Thoreau School Directory can be ordered on-line, by mail or by sending an order form to school with your child.  Pre-ordered copies can be picked up (and additional copies can be purchased) at the Back-to-School Night event in September.  On-line orders can be placed on the PTG website by opening the “Support Thoreau” pull-down menu and choosing “School Directory.”  Additional ordering information will be included in the electronic information packet published for the classroom open house just prior to the start of school.

Q:  I would like to meet people in the Thoreau community by volunteering with the Parent Teacher Group.  How do I get involved?

A:  The PTG will host a “welcome back to school” coffee gathering and meeting on Friday, September 4th, 2015  at 9am where we will discuss the many ways families can participate in Thoreau community activities.  The Thoreau Parent Teacher Group is a volunteer-run organization, so any help you can offer is much appreciated.  Details on the meeting will be distributed in the Thoreau PTG Announcements weekly e-newsletter.  If you do not automatically begin to receive the e-newsletter by the end of the first week of school, please subscribe by visiting the PTG website at https://www.thoreauptg.org, choosing the “Quick Links” pull-down menu and clicking on “Subscribe.”

Beyond the welcome-back coffee date, the PTG will continue to hold monthly meetings throughout the year where you can learn about ways to be active in our work for the kids.  All parents/guardians are encouraged to attend.  Meeting dates will be advertised on our website and in the Thoreau PTG Announcements.

A list of current volunteer opportunities is also available at the PTG website under “Volunteer.”

Q:  I saw a checkbox on my child’s school registration form asking me to give permission for the PTG to use my contact information.  How will my details be used if I give this permission?

A:  The PTG respects the privacy of its members and does not share or sell any contact information to other organizations.  Your information will be included in the Thoreau School Directory, which is published in print for use by the Thoreau community.  To protect your contact details by discouraging wider distribution, the directory is not posted to any public web page and is not distributed electronically.

The PTG will also use your provided email addresses to send you a weekly e-newsletter called Thoreau PTG Announcements.  If you do not wish to receive this, you can unsubscribe using the link at the bottom of any edition.  See the question about on-line resources earlier in this document for more information about this newsletter.

Additionally, other PTG members may use the information published in the directory in various ways.  Other parents may wish to contact you socially.  Your child’s classroom “room parents” may use your email address to distribute classroom-specific communication.  The chairperson of a PTG committee may want to coordinate with you if you have raised your hand to volunteer.  The New Family Support Coordinator will reach out to families new to Thoreau to provide assistance with transitioning into our school and community.

All of these actions are intended to help you to be better informed and integrated at Thoreau School.  If you did not give your permission on your child’s registration form for the PTG to access your contact information, we encourage you to contact the Thoreau administration office to do so.

Q:  Whom can I ask if I have other important questions before school starts?

A:  In the few days before the start of school, feel free to direct any urgent questions to Principal Angel Charles by contacting the Thoreau School administration office at 978-341-2490, extension 3100, or by writing to her at acharles@colonial.net.

If you would like to submit a correction, comment or additional question/answer to help next year’s new families, please contact Kimber Lynn Drake, New Family Support Coordinator, at kimber.drake@comcast.net or at (978) 831-3058.  Thank you!

Revision 8/19/2015