Kindergarten FAQs



GETTING MY CHILD TO/FROM SCHOOL:


Q:  Is bus transportation provided?

A:   Massachusetts State Law requires that students in grades K-6 who live more than two miles from school be provided free bus transportation to and from school. Students in grades K-6 who live less than two miles from school may be eligible for bus transportation but are required to pay a $240 annual fee.  


Q: How was the distance determined?
A: State guidelines measure the two miles from the student’s home driveway to their school’s driveway. We use our transportation software to establish which families are close to the two-mile limit. We use the shortest distance as derived from Mapquest to verify that information.

Q: Is there a family cap?
A: Yes, there is a family cap of $720.

Q: What if I can’t afford to pay the fee?
A: State law requires that all students who are eligible for free and reduced lunch not be charged for transportation. If this is the case, please contact the Donna Barry directly at 508-429-0654, and she will instruct you on how to apply for the program. 

Q: What if I need transportation only once during the day?
A: Some students may not need transportation in both directions. That is not a service level we are offering at a discount. Our routes and bus capacities are designed around the same routes for the entire year. 

Q: What if I want to drop the program during the school year?
A: Similar to the above, some students may not need transportation for the entire year. That is not a service level we are offering at a discount. Our routes and bus capacities are designed around the same routes for the entire year. 

Q: Why do I have to register my child even though they qualify for free?
A: Not all children who qualify for free transportation will ride the bus. We are requiring all that want transportation to apply for a pass. This will aid us in theft of service issues.

Q: How do I appeal the decision on whether my child qualifies for free transportation?
A: Please contact the transportation office at 508-429-0654 x1133, if you believe the distance calculation is in error. 

Q: Does my child need to carry their bus pass every day?
A: Yes, they need to carry their pass with them and show it to the driver every time they get on the bus.

Q: What if my child loses their pass?
A: There is a fee of $10 to replace a lost pass.


Q:  How do I find out where my child’s bus stop will be and the approximate time they will be picked up?

A:  Bus routes are posted on the Placentino website approximately two weeks prior to the start of school. In addition, your child’s bus number, bus stop, and pick-up and drop-off times will be on the form you receive your bus pass on.  


Q:  How do I sign up for transportation?

A:  All students who use bus transportation require a bus pass, even those who are eligible for free transportation. To sign up for transportation, fill out the Bus Pass Application located on our website at:

http://www.holliston.k12.ma.us/home/about/bus-information

and follow the directions to submit the form to the Superintendent’s Office.


Q: What is the Bus Buddies program?

A: Bus Buddies allows parents to volunteer to ride the bus with their Kindergartners during the first week of school. The program is organized by the Holliston Parent Teacher Organization (PTO). For more information about this and other volunteer opportunities, please click here: http://www.hollistonptsa.org/about/.


Q:  How do I get my child to and from school if I choose not to use the school-provided transportation?

A:  Many parents choose not to use the school-provided transportation. Some parents live within walking distance of Placentino and walk their child to school each day. Others arrange local neighborhood car-pools to transport their children to school. While individual car riders are certainly permissible, the Placentino campus and Woodland Street can be congested during morning drop-off and afternoon pick-up times, so ride-sharing is encouraged.  


DROP-OFF/PICK-UP PROCEDURES FOR CAR RIDERS


Q:  What are the school hours?

A:  At Placentino, school begins at 8:50AM and ends at 3:15PM.  For half-day Kindergarten students, school begins at 8:50 AM and ends at 11:47 PM.


Q:  What is the earliest I can drop my child off at Placentino?

A:  Staff members are outside (rain or shine) accepting students beginning at 8:30 AM.   We cannot accept students any earlier. If you need before- or after-school support, please contact Carol White, the Director of the Holliston Extended Day Program, a service of the Holliston Public Schools, via email at whitec@holliston.k12.ma.us.


Q:  The Placentino/Miller campus is large.  Where do I drop my child off in the morning?

A:  The parent’s drop-off area for Placentino is located in the middle loop, which is in front of the Miller/Placentino Cafetorium as outlined on the map located on our website at: https://drive.google.com/a/holliston.k12.ma.us/file/d/0B7g5gwBbt9WvcG40Ny0xWXpLY0E/view 

 Please follow the signals of the staff members who are outside supervising student drop-off and pull forward when requested. Staff members will assist your child out of the car (please make sure your child is sitting on the right hand side of the car). Parents are NOT to exit their car and should drive away as soon as their child has safely exited the vehicle. Parents are to stay in the car line and NOT pass on the left to leave the line even when their child has departed from the vehicle.


Q:  Is afternoon pick-up handled the same way?

A.  No. Parents must park their car in the Miller School or Placentino School parking lots and walk into the Cafetorium to pick up their child. (The Miller School has already dismissed so there are many parking spots on the Miller side of the campus.) During the initial weeks, parent IDs will be checked before handing off a child.  


Q:  Sometimes a neighbor or my mother-in-law needs to pick up my child.  How does that work?  

A:  A handwritten note to the classroom teacher is required any time someone other than a parent or guardian is picking up a student. If you need to change your arrangements after your child has already left for school, please contact the Placentino School office, at 508-429-0647. In addition, the person picking up must be 16 or older and show picture identification before we can dismiss a child from Placentino.


Q:  I want to add or remove a person from the list of people who can pick my child up from school.  How do I do that?

A:  Please call the Placentino School office, at 508-429-0647, to share a change in contact listings for your child.


GETTING READY FOR THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL


Q:  Do you have any suggestions on how I could talk to my child about their upcoming first day of school?

A:  It is normal for both the student and his/her parents to feel some level of anxiety as the first day of Kindergarten approaches.  Acknowledging your child’s apprehension can oftentimes diminish it and keep it in perspective.  Modeling a positive attitude and flexibility as the day approaches can also help parents and students with the transition.  Talk to your child about the experience and solicit questions.  Recently, for example, one parent reported learning that their child was under the impression that they would live at the school and wouldn’t return home at the end of the school day. Once the parent corrected that misperception, the transition went off smoothly.


Q:  Are there any books available about the first day of school that I could use to help with the transition?

A:  The Holliston Public Library carry hundreds of children’s books and a visit with the Children’s Librarian to select a book about the first day of school could serve as a useful reminder that what the child is experiencing is universal and always turns out well.


Q:  Can I visit the school before the first day?

A: The orientation day is an opportunity for students and families to become acquainted with the school. Together you will visit the classroom and have an opportunity to visit different areas of the school.


Q:  I understand the building may be closed, but can we walk around outside?

A:  Absolutely!  In fact, we strongly recommend a family visit to the Kindergarten playground as an effective way to acquaint your child with the school and establish a positive and enjoyable first impression at the same time.  The Kindergarten playground is located on the left-hand side of the building (as you face the front door) nearest the Adams Middle School.  


Q:  What School Supplies should I have my child bring?

A: When coming to school each day, a child should bring a backpack, large enough to hold an 8 1/2" by 11" folder.  If an individual teacher requests that you provide your child with a few additional items, that teacher will communicate directly with you.   


FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL


Q:  When does school start?

A:  Traditionally, the first day of school for students is the Tuesday before Labor Day, which this year is Tuesday, August 30, 2016.   For Kindergarten students, the first day is an abbreviated Orientation Day.  The schedule for August 30th is as follows:

    Children whose last names begin A – K                  9:30 – 10:15

    Children whose last names begin L – Z                 10:45 – 11:30


Regular Kindergarten classes begin on Wednesday, August 31, 2016.  For the complete school calendar, please see our website:  http://www.holliston.k12.ma.us/home/about/school-year-calendar



Q:  I’m a little nervous about just putting my child on the “big yellow bus.”  How can I be sure he/she will be OK and get to school safely?

A: In addition to a highly trained, professional driver, each Placentino bus is assigned a “Bus Buddy” for the first two days of school.  This program is coordinated by the Elementary School PTO and parents/guardians are welcome to pick a shift to ride with their child on the first two days of school to or from school. The “Bus Buddy” will sit with the Kindergarten students at the front of the bus and make sure they make it to school safely and are handed-off to a trusted adult at the school.   Interested parents MUST volunteer well in advance as all “Bus Buddies” are required to have passed a CORI (Criminal Background Check) before being approved.  Contact Stacey Raffi at raffifamily@gmail.com to be volunteer to be a Bus Buddy.



Q:  What happens after the first two days of school?

A:  Every morning, a trained school employee boards the bus as it arrives at Placentino and takes all of the Kindergarten students off the bus first and makes sure they are safely inside the school and grouped with their classmates.


Q:  I will drive my child to school.  Are there any special accommodations for the first few days to help ease my child’s transition?

A:  Many parents (and some students) are understandably a little apprehensive during the first few days of school and, as a result, are some parents are uncomfortable with dropping their Kindergartner at the curb.  If you wish to walk your child to the school entrance, please park your car in the Placentino parking lot, carefully walk your child to the area outside the Miller/Placentino Cafetorium, say a quick goodbye, and make sure your child is with a member of the Placentino staff before returning to your car.


Q:  How long do these special procedures last?

A:  Schools run on routines and the entire Placentino staff works hard to make sure that all of our students understand and follow those routines.  Kindergarten students learn the drop-off and pick-up routines very quickly (usually within the first week), but there are ALWAYS an adequate number of trained school staff outside both during morning drop-off and afternoon pick-up to insure students safely get to school and home again.


LUNCH:


Q:  How much is a school-provided lunch and what is included for that cost?

A:  Current lunch prices for Placentino Elementary School are $3.25 for lunch.  This includes the daily menu item plus a milk.  


Q:  How do I pay for lunch?  Can I pay ahead or “run a tab?”

A:  We accept cash at the register. We encourage families to prepay by utilizing either the Unipay application on the Town’s website at: https://unipaygold.unibank.com/Default.aspx?customerid=352 or to use the “My School Bucks” application at www.MySchoolBucks.com.  


You have to register for “My School Bucks,” but for that information you get to see your balance, receive alerts when your balance is low, and see that your child has purchased lunch that day. You get all of these features whether you fund the account via Unipay or MySchoolBucks.  


We do not allow families to run in arrears or “run a tab”.  


Student information should be available on MySchoolBucks in mid-August if you would like to register early.  

Q:  If I don’t want a school-provided lunch, can my child buy milk or a dessert (or both)?

A:  Yes, a child can purchase milk at the current price of $0.60.  Children may purchase ice cream (on Thursdays only) for $0.50. Your child  is also able to purchase a double lunch for double the price. If you would not like to have your child have milk or double lunch purchasing options, please email Holly Everett, Director of Food Services at everetth@holliston.k12.ma.us to share your interests in writing.


Q:  What happens if I forget to send my child with lunch money?

A:  If you forget to provide lunch money, we will provide your child with the lunch menu item for that day.  We will then charge your child’s account the $3.25 (current lunch price) for the lunch.  You will be expected to remedy the negative balance in your account ASAP.


Q:  My child has a food allergy.  How is that handled?

A:  Ensuring the psychological and physical safety of students with food allergies is a key concern of parents and educators.  Since each child’s situation is unique, if your child has a food allergy, you are encouraged to contact the Placentino nurse to discuss the specific nature of your child’s allergy, the accommodations that allergy necessitates, and the medical procedures ordered by your child’s physician should an accidental exposure occur. The Placentino nurse can be reached through the Main Office at (508) 429-0647. Please visit the visit the Placentino website for a message from Mrs. Erica Olson, Placentino School Nurse. https://sites.google.com/a/holliston.k12.ma.us/placentino/NFClassroomUpdate.pdf?attredirects=0&d=1


Q:  Are students allowed to sit with anyone or do they sit together as a class?

A: The cafeteria has about 40 tables, and each classroom is assigned to a specific set of tables for the school year.


Q: What about dessert?

A: Ice cream can be purchased each Thursday, for Kindergarten only and every day for children in Grades 1 and 2. Ice cream is a part of the food services distribution area and children need to pay for their ice cream just as they do their lunch.


RECESS


Q:  Do Kindergarten students have recess?  If so, how often? (and for how long?)

A:  Recess is an opportunity for social interaction, play, and overall physical movement that is an  important part of the school day and developing child. Kindergarten has two recesses a day. One recess is approximately 15 minutes long and occurs during the AM session along with snack time. This recess may occur inside or outside at the discretion of the classroom teacher. The second recess is in the afternoon and is approximately 25 minutes. The second recess is planned for outside play experiences most of the time, even during the winter months.


Q:  How is recess organized?  Do all of the Kindergarten students go to recess together?

A: No, due to the size of our playground, we stagger the recess schedule.


COMMUNICATING WITH YOUR CHILD’S TEACHER


Q:  What is the best way to communicate with my child’s teacher?

A:  There are a number of different ways to communicate with your child’s teacher and the “best” way depends on the type of information you are seeking to communicate:


  • Dismissal Information:  If you want to change your child from a bus rider to a car rider or unexpectedly need to dismiss your child from school, that information is best communicated directly to the Main Office secretary at Placentino (429-0657).  The secretary will make sure that the teacher is aware of the change in routine. Bus changes are approved through the Assistant Principal. Play-dates are not able to be accommodated through bus dismissal.

  • General one-way communication:  Email can be an effective means of communication for information that is not time sensitive, that you simply want to communicate to your child’s teacher. Teachers generally check their emails daily and respond to emails, in general, within one business day.  

  • General two-way communication:  Our experience is that email is not an effective way to communicate when a conversation or back-and-forth exchange is needed. In these situations, it is best to email the teacher and arrange a time to meet face-to-face or set up a time to talk on the phone. Each teacher has a phone in their room where you can leave a private voice-mail message and request a call-back, but teachers will ordinarily not answer their phone during the school day as it would disrupt classroom instruction.


Q: How often do report cards go out and do parents receive them electronically or on paper?

A: Report cards are sent home twice during the school year. Preschool and Kindergarten report cards go home at the parent/teacher conference in January. Grade 1 and 2 report cards are sent home with students in February. Families are asked to sign and return the envelope to the classroom teacher. The second report card goes home at the end of the school year.  All report cards are in a paper format.


SECURITY


Q:  What are the school district’s practices regarding background checks for employees?

A:  Massachusetts State Law requires that all employees of the Holliston Public Schools have a Criminal Background Check (CORI) at the beginning of their employment and every three years thereafter.  In addition, the state has recently extended the requirement to include fingerprint checks that provide more extensive, nationwide checks on employees.  These checks are also conducted every 3-5 years.


Q:  Who reviews the results of these checks?

A:  The Superintendent of Schools reviews the results of both the CORI and fingerprint checks to determine if there is anything in an employee’s criminal background that makes them unsafe to be around children.


Q:  What about parent volunteers?

A:  All parent volunteers who may be in a position where they could be alone with a child must also submit a CORI form to the Superintendent’s Office and pass a background check before being allowed to volunteer in our schools. These results, like employee results, are seen by the superintendent and if the superintendent feels that a volunteer’s criminal background makes them unsafe to be around children, they will discreetly, but firmly, be informed that they will not be able to volunteer in our schools.


Q:  What about the physical safety of our buildings?

A:  Each door to the Placentino School is locked and entrance into the school, during school hours, is limited to one door in the front. To gain entry into the building, visitors must press the bell, which rings in the school office. A school employee will communicate with the visitor through the intercom and its accompanying video monitor to determine if the visitor has a legitimate reason for entry. If so, the visitor will be buzzed into the building and is required to go directly to the Main Office for sign-in.


Q:  If I see an adult in the school, how do I know that they are there legitimately?

A:  Each employee is required to wear an employee badge issued by the Holliston Public Schools.  In addition, visitors are given a visitor’s badge, which they must wear during their visit.  If you observe an adult in the building who is not wearing a badge, please notify the school’s main office, and someone will follow-up immediately


Q:  What other security measures do you employ?

A:  Given the nature of the times, there is a protocol for securing and evacuating the building if there is an intruder in the building.  This protocol was developed in cooperation with members of the Holliston Police Department, the Holliston Fire Department, and the Massachusetts State Police.  Each year, we conduct several security drills both with staff-only and occasionally with students.  In addition, we conduct fire drills as required by state law.


Q:  Are there any other security measures in place to insure the safety of the students and staff while they are in school?

A:  Holliston Public Schools does not publicize all of its security measures and protocols as making them public would make them less effective. In general, however, the Holliston Public Schools, the Holliston Police Department, and the Holliston Fire Department are constantly examining our procedures and protocols to ensure their effectiveness. Most importantly, studies show that the perpetrators of all incidents of school-related violence in the United States had indicated their intentions to at least one other person prior to the incident. The best method to prevent school incidents is communication. If you have a concern that someone may be a threat to a school, you are encouraged to notify the authorities immediately.