Ryley West got into a little scuffle with older kids on the playground while registering for kindergarten recently. That experience made his mom, Tina, happy to have her 5-year-old in a school just for children his age.
“I really like that there’s no big kids,” Tina West said Tuesday, her son’s first day of kindergarten in the Coeur d’Alene School District.
Ryley was among the children starting school in the district’s first kinder center since the 1980s. The former Hayden Lake Elementary School, on Government Way in Hayden, was renovated to welcome 268 kindergarten students from three other elementary schools.
Hayden Kinder Center will draw students from Ramsey, Skyway and Atlas elementary schools, which were all at or above capacity with about 600 students each, district officials said. The new center was necessary due to the rapid population growth in the northwest section of the district. The kinder center will free up eight classrooms in the other school buildings, said Principal Sharon Hanson.
“Those schools were just full,” Hanson said. “It’s also a great way for teachers to collaborate.”
On Tuesday morning, volunteers offered coffee to parents and welcomed backpack-toting children. Parents showed their children how to open and close lockers for the first time and snapped their pictures in front of an animal mural near the entrance.
Children found their classrooms, identified by different animals, including giraffes, polar bears and monkeys. “Welcome to our bird’s nest!” teacher Cherish Hansen said on her section of the school’s Web site. Her classroom’s “critter” is a quail.
The kinder center also offers a before- and after- school program and will bus students to school beginning Monday, said Pam Pratt, the district’s director of elementary education. Kindergarteners attend either a morning or an afternoon session.
Though some parents expressed dismay that their children would not attend elementary school with older siblings, they also were pleased to have a school just for the smallest children.
“I love it,” said Pamela Gaylor, whose daughter, Johnna, 5, will attend the kinder center, instead of Skyway Elementary with her big sister, Sierra, 6. “No competition. They’re the same level, the same height. She’s so excited to finally have her own school.”
Hayden Lake elementary was closed as a school in 2005, when Skyway opened. Since then the building has been used for administrative purposes. The idea of using it as a kinder center that could alleviate crowding at other schools came up following the failure of a 2006 levy that would have built a new elementary school.
Other districts that use the kinder center model include Post Falls, which has operated the Frederick Post kindergarten center since 1995, and Central Valley, which opened one in 2006.