NEWMAN - Students in the Newman-Crows Landing Unified School District won’t return to the classroom to start a new year until Aug. 13.
But a back-to-school festival 10 days earlier will help pave the way for a smooth start when the school bells sound to signal the end of summer vacation.
The event will be held from 8:30 a.m. to noon in Newman’s downtown plaza.
Since its inception in 2015, the event has become a popular tradition among families and school staff alike, providing an ice-breaker of sorts for the new school year but also allowing parents to get paperwork and other requirements out of the way before classes resume.
“That first year, we thought 500 people might show up and it was closer to 2,000,” said Superintendent Randy Fillpot, noting that the event has continued to be very well-attended.
“The purpose is really just to give students and parents an opportunity to meet administration and some of the staff from each site. We want them to build those connections, and to learn what programs are offered at each school,” he said.
The festival offers students the opportunity to catch up with their friends, Fillpot added, while informing parents of what is happening at local schools and allowing them to meet new staff members.
Janice Conforti, president of the local school board, said the relaxed setting of the event is well-suited to casual conversations between school staff and parents, whereas a visit to a school office would be more formal.
“It is very informal,” she commented. “It is a little more casual and easy to spend some time (visiting with school officials).”
The back-to-school event is particularly valuable to families with students who will be entering a new school, she said, and to those who are new to the district altogether.
“It relieves a lot of the anxiety of people coming to the district who have never been here,” Conforti commented. “It helps build a family relationship.”
While much of the event is geared toward information and enjoyment, there is also important school business to be conducted.
Families who have not yet registered pupils or who need to update their registration information will be able to do so that morning, Fillpot said, and nutrition services personnel will also be on hand to help parents complete free and reduced-cost lunch forms.
Having those matters taken care of before the first day of class leads to a less hectic start to the school year, Fillpot pointed out.
“We have found that since doing this event the first day of school goes much more smoothly,” he reported.
“You can start school that first day instead of dealing with all the logistics,” Conforti added.
Food and entertainment are part of the morning, and school mascots will also be on hand to lend to the festivities.
A number of community resource providers typically take part as well to inform families of the services they offer, Fillpot said, and the district will also be providing information on initiatives such as its Footsteps2Brilliance literary app.
“We just try to make it a fun environment,” he concluded.