The school where this took place was recently rebuilt, so everything inside was shiny and new. This was probably the biggest gathering of people around my own age I'd been to since school (welcome to back to the peer group, sir). The main gathering was in the gym, but they sent us to separate classrooms so that we could get to know the principal and kindergarten teachers for our local school. I liked the principal for our nearby school – she was a great believer in having the kids take care of themselves, the school, and each other; for example, each kindergartner gets a fifth-grader "buddy" to look after him ! I thought this was pretty cool. I looked around the new classroom and marveled at all the shiny new stuff that was in it – yet, for some odd reason, they still use language cassette tapes with those Bell and Howell-type cheap headphones, but there were also three computers in the classroom and many books, and a TV. And those school chairs are just as sturdy as I remember them !
After that, we went back to the gym for words from the superintendent of the system. On the way back, we bumped into an old acquaintance of mine – well, I guess we really are all getting older and settling down. After the superintendent spoke there was a question-and-answer session. Parents were anxious about the curriculum for kindergarten, but the teachers mostly focus on getting them ready for learning – reading and writing isn't really taught "for keeps" until the first grade.
The other big issue is full-time kindergarten. Massachusetts mandates only a half-day of kindergarten, so for full-time kindergarten, we need to pay somewhere between $800 and $1500 to enroll in the full-time program, because the town doesn't have the money. The fee had actually been going down since the program started about five years ago, but with the economy in the dumpster, which has depleted revenues to both the town and the state, it's probably going to be higher next year. So it was kind of boneheaded when a man asked why, if full-time is so great (nearly all parents seem to opt for it), how the town could pay for all of it. Duh ! He phrased the question in such a way that all the town would have to do would be wave a magic wand and it would be done ! It would have to be by raising taxes, you dummy, which because of Prop 2 1/2, is extremely unlikely. And most neighboring towns, even the more affluent ones, don't do it either.
The next step will be to visit our local school (newly renovated and just a short walk from the neighborhood), and before we know it, our little boy will be learning, playing, and making friends there.