‘Kids want to be here’: West Valley School Dist. kickstart program gets kids ready for school

SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. – Going back to school can be nerve-wracking for students, that’s why the West Valley School District (WVSD) started a brand new program called Kickstart to help ease them back in.

“It was an automatic decision. We didn’t even question it,” said Brenda Kearsley, a mom of four WVSD students, who enrolled her two elementary students in Kickstart.

WVSD says it began Kickstart because it wanted to help students get comfortable with being in school again and meet their teachers and friends.

For six days  – Thursday being the last – kids grades kindergarten through fifth grade spent half a day at school being hands-on, learn and had some fun.

Students spent time outside and indoors building things, like night lights and made their own butter.

Kearsley said her two youngest were really excited to be in the program, and that’s the same thing the district is hearing from other students and parents as well.

“I think there’s a new appreciation for being at school, being in-person,” said Vicki Leifer, the assistant superintendent of WVSD.

The way kids learned last year changed a lot, from starting with online learning, to hybrid, then transitioning to full time.

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“It was difficult last year. Kids were a bit stressed. You can tell there was some extra stress in the households and that was coming into the school,” said Dena Klein, a counselor with Ness Elementary. “This year, it’s a little bit different. Kids want to be here.”

Leifer said about 400 students signed up to be in Kickstart, while nearly 90 sixth graders tried a different kind of camp. While kids were having fun doing different activities for six days, it did help them make up for lost time from school last year.

“Everybody’s kind of in the same place. There was time that was missed, but now we have time and we are aware we need to take small steps to make those things up,” Leifer said.

As a counselor, it was the first time Klein participated in a summer camp, and she feels it was what the kids needed.

“It’s an opportunity to see where they are socially and emotionally. They have been great. We have worked on feelings and how to express emotions, working with each other, taking turns, sharing and just building our community up so they are ready for the fall when they come,” she said.

Klein knows parents and kids feel anxious before heading back to school, saying there is a lot of pressure with the first day. This program helped families get back into a routine, and Kearsley said it helped hers.

“It definitely is a good way to get back into the groove that was just so unpredictable in the year and a half. It’s a very nice way to step back in,” Kearsley said.

Leifer said they’ve heard a lot of positive things about Kickstart and plan to bring it back next year.

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