ELKHART — As the first day of school for Elkhart Community Schools quickly approaches, incoming kindergartners are getting some early exposure to the school life.

The district’s Transition to Kindergarten program began on Monday; more than 200 children in nine Title I school sites are spending the next two weeks getting acclimated in a classroom setting, organizers said.

Although it was the first day of the program, Jennifer Wagotowicz, a kindergarten teacher at Riverview Elementary, who helped coordinate the program, said it was well under way.

The school had 45 kids who participated in the program on Monday and 54 who were enrolled. The program has about four teachers on hand, including a Spanish interpreter for students who know little or no English.

The first day of school can be overwhelming for both the students and the parents, Wagotowicz said, and the program is designed to alleviate that anxiety before the students officially begin their school journey.

“This program really helps students and transition into a school setting,” she said. “We also want to let parents know that their children are safe so they feel more comfortable when they drop their kids off.”

Over the course of the two weeks, new kindergartners will learn classroom, lunchroom and playground procedures, meet their classmates and teachers, break into groups and tour the school building and various school rules.

This is the sixth year Riverview has held the program and Wagotowicz, who’s been a teacher at the school for 16 years, said each year she’s witnessed the advantages the program provides students. She added that the school will have about 17 kindergartners per classroom who will be prepared on the first day this year because of the program.

“They’ll know who their teacher is and see familiar faces so the students won’t be scared when they show up to school the first day,” she said of the students.

Much of Monday was spent on orientation and getting an introduction to how the classroom operates.

Many of the students said they enjoyed the program and responded to the activities with plenty of smiles.

So far, Audrina Ramirez, 5, said she’s enjoyed the coloring activity.

“I really enjoy coloring and look forward to painting when school starts,” she said.

Gavin Decker said he’s enjoyed recess the most.

“I look forward to going outside and playing baseball with friends,” he said.

The program runs through Aug. 9.

Next week, the district begins Kindergarten Camp, which will run Aug. 5-9, at five of the district’s non-Title I buildings.

The first day of school at Elkhart Community Schools is Aug. 15.

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