School welcomes 100s of new faces

(Source: KAIT-TV)
(Source: KAIT-TV)

BROOKLAND, AR (KAIT) - A steady stream of Kindergarteners is flowing through one Region 8 school.

Brookland Elementary has more little ones than ever before.

Danielle Machen has been a Kindergarten teacher at Brookland Elementary for six years and says she's never seen a group this large.

"We've had a big group come in," Machen said. "And it's exciting, but it's also like 'Whoa! That's a lot of kindergarteners.'"

What caused such a reaction?

Elementary Principal Sandy McCall said they could feel the tide turning at the end of last school year.

"It was in late March, early April," McCall said. "We had our first registration. And we had a number that was just incredible. So, we knew something was going to happen differently this year because we had so many pre-register. Then, before school was out in May we had to add our 11th Kindergarten teacher. Last year we had ten and we knew for sure we were going to need 11. As the summer went on we've still added more. And in fact, all 11 of our classrooms are at max. In Kindergarten, you can have 20 in each classroom. So, we are over that number in some of our classrooms so we've hired a para pro for two of our classrooms."

So, what is that number?

Brookland Elementary currently has 222 kindergarteners.

Machen said they got to work right away to prepare for what they suspected was coming.

"Obviously we have some new faces that have come," Machen said. "And are a part of our Kindergarten team. We've actually been working all summer long getting together with our team. Starting our planning and helping these new faces get acclimated to Brookland Elementary. So, we've actually been working all summer on that. But it's been great so far."

Principal McCall said everyone has been working hard.

"You want to make sure you have your rooms well prepared," McCall said. "And of course, sometimes furniture doesn't come in like it's supposed to. And so, you have a lot of things to think about. Furniture, desks and book shelves. And of course, with Kindergarteners there are so many activities to keep those little ones busy. You've got to have enough games and manipulatives and centers. It takes a lot to make sure you have that ready for them, as well."

McCall said Kindergarten can define the rest of their school career.

"This is their first experience," McCall said. "And of course, we want it to be their best because it makes such a big impression and we want the kids to love to come to school. And that will carry on through the rest of their grades."

Machen said it's fun working with so many dedicated people.

"When you have that many Kindergarten teachers, you have quite a big team," Machen said. "But it's been fantastic because we are all able to come together and bring ideas to the table. These other teachers that have come to other schools, they're bringing in their ideas that they've been using what has worked for them. So, we have all been able to come together to put all the ideas together in one place. We've been able to talk about what works, what doesn't work and able to get our curriculum down and our scheduling and all that kind of stuff."

"We are all about being a team," McCall said. "When you have more teachers, you have a lot more great ideas going around and opinions. And so, you just have to go at it and establish that culture of being a team. And all of our Kindergarten teachers are on board and are embracing that teamwork concept. So, it's just a good place. We're making it work and they work together as a team. They work together after school as a team. So, you just have to be able to listen to other ideas and share your ideas and then you come to a consensus. Because I tell my teachers this. It's always about what's best for the students. We do not need to make decisions based on what is best for us adults. It should always go by what is best for the students."

A couple of things have had to change due to the large number of kids.

"At our lunch time, we've had to split our lunches for Kindergarten this year because there are so many," McCall said. "With those little ones, they need that extra help and attention to get their lunches ready and it's just such a new world. And so, we do have our Kindergarten lunch split this year."

Another new thing this group will be experiencing is two separate Kindergarten graduations at the end of the year.

"We will have them on two days," Machen said. "And that's something that is going to be different for Brookland Elementary. We normally have graduation on one night. This year we're going to have to have graduation on two separate days. It just goes to show how much the Brookland Elementary Kindergarten is growing."

McCall said a big focus this year is going to be reading.

"They're really working on their curriculum this year," McCall said. "And with the new initiative from the state of Arkansas--it's called Arkansas Rise--it's a huge push for reading in Arkansas. And so, it comes with us focusing on what we need to do here internally to help our reading instruction. And then, to foster a love of reading in our school as well as our community. So, that's going to be a huge push this year. Not just in Kindergarten, but in our whole school."

McCall said despite the large number of students, they've managed to get everything they need for them.

"We were very fortunate with Stuff the Bus," McCall said. "We had such a huge turnout. So, we are well supplied there. So, I think we're in good shape."

McCall said it's the community support that makes all the difference.

"The growth is amazing," McCall said. "I've never been at a school that had so much parental and community involvement. We have a lot of that and we welcome our parents to come. Because it takes a team working with the school. It takes our community. It takes our parents to work together and do what's best for our students"

"It is fabulous," Machen said. "It's fantastic. This community is so supportive of Brookland Elementary and you can just tell by the parents that are coming in and wanting to just help and do what they can to help their children have a successful school year. Brookland is a fast-growing city and it's just great. It's just great to have that community support."

McCall said they're going to be watching the numbers closely.

She said students often continue to enroll the first couple of weeks of the new school year.

She feels the final total of students will be seen after Labor Day weekend.

If any more Kindergarteners come in, McCall said they will have to hire a 12th Kindergarten teacher.

For more information about Brookland Elementary, click here.

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