It's January. There's 7 months until August. That's 7 months until your little one, if they will be 5 on or before September 1st, will walk into a kindergarten classroom and start a new adventure.
There are mixed emotions, I know. The thought of your child going on to kindergarten can be both exhilarating and heartbreaking. I felt these things too. One emotion I didn't really expect to feel that year leading up to kindergarten was OVERWHELMED!
I was overwhelmed with having to choose the best possible environment for my child to begin their educational career. It might sound silly to place such importance on a five-year-olds first year of school, but kindergarten is where they will form many of their feelings and ideas about school. Kindergarten will help shape their thoughts and enthusiasm for learning.
In Beaufort County, we are fortunate to have many kindergarten options. With three charter schools and a school district that allows school choice among their many elementary schools, the options are plenty. I found myself going from website to website, scrolling through Facebook pages, and chatting with several front desk managers on the phone, trying to determine which school would be the best fit for my child.
Again this year, I spent hours on the phone chatting with administration and front desk managers, browsing webpages, and scrolling through Facebook. I do have another child going to kindergarten, but this time I was not necessarily doing the research for my family’s benefit. This time, I'm doing it for YOU!
I've gathered information on the free kindergarten options in northern Beaufort County and put it all in this post, in hopes that this will make your decision-making process a little less strenuous than mine. Read on to check them all out:
Option 1: Beaufort County School District
Facebook: Beaufort County School District
Class Size: Varies from school to school
Uniforms: Yes; specific colors vary from school to school
Early Care/After Care: Varies form school to school
-All Kindergarten classrooms have a lead teacher and an assistant teacher. Some schools, depending on funding, have a third assistant that floats between all kindergarten classrooms.
-Related Arts/Specials: Varies from school to school
-Each elementary school has a different approach to learning, referred to as a "School Choice Program". These include such approaches as Arts Infused, Learning Through Leadership, Project Based Learning, Montessori, and AMES (Advanced Math, Engineering, and Science).
If you live in northern Beaufort County, you have the option of enrolling at your zoned elementary school or possibly at one of the other 9 through School Choice. To find out which elementary school you are zoned for, check out this map.
If you decide to enroll at the elementary school in your attendance zone, you'll need to call that school and make an appointment to register. When you go to the school to register, be sure to bring along your child's birth certificate, an updated immunization record, and proof of residency (electric bill, lease, mortgage, etc.). During your registration appointment, you will receive a Snap Code. All students must be registered through InfoSnap. You can do this at the school or on your computer from home. This must be updated each year.
If you decide to go the School Choice route, you will need to complete a School Choice Application. School Choice applications will be available on February 1st and must be turned into the district by February 28th. There are a couple things to keep in mind when completing a School Choice application:
1. The school you are applying for must have a different School Choice Program from the school for which you are zoned. For example, if your child's zoned school's School Choice Program is Project-Based Learning, the school you are applying to cannot have a School Choice Program of Project-Based Learning as well.
2. Not all schools in the district will be listed as options. Schools that are already at capacity will not be an option for School Choice.
Although applying for School Choice does not guarantee that your child will be approved to attend the school of your choosing, the district encourages families to complete the application process anyway. If you do not complete the application and turn it in by the deadline, there will be no other chances to attend a different school in the district other than the one for which you are zoned. If you are approved and then later decide to have your child attend their zoned school, you have that option!
Not sure which School Choice would be best for your child? The district will soon be releasing a list of dates that each school will be hosting the community to learn more about their School Choice Program. If you cannot make one of these dates, you should contact the school you are interested in and accommodations for a visit will be made for you.
All School Choice decisions will be made by the end of March. If you have any other questions, you can head over to the School Choice Headquarters or speak with N'Kia Campbell (843-322-5925) at the school district.
Option 2: Bridges Preparatory School
Facebook: Bridges Preparatory School
Class Size: 20-23 (classes are capped at 23 students)
Uniform: Yes; collared shirts of any solid color (no pattern or logo; only Bridges logo allowed), pants should be black, navy, or khaki
Early Care/After Care: Yes, offered at Bridges through the Boys & Girls Club.
-All Kindergarten classrooms have a lead teacher and an assistant teacher.
-3 Kindergarten classrooms
-Related Arts/Specials: Drama, PE, Spanish, Art
-Academic Approach/Focus: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (S.T.E.M.) school that employs the Paideia methodology.
Bridges Preparatory School is a SC state charter school. Entry and enrollment for this school is done by lottery; meaning, all new applicants are assigned a number, placed in a pool, and available spots will be filled by randomly selecting from the pool during the lottery.
Bridges is currently accepting applications through January 31st. You can visit this page to complete an application. The lottery will be held on February 15th, so families will know if their child has a spot on that date.
Bridges Preparatory School is uniquely set up with three campuses: the Celadon Campus, the Boundary Street Campus, and the Port Royal Campus (located on Robert Smalls Pkwy). Their new Port Royal Campus is currently under construction. Their goal is to have the entire school, grades K-12, located at that campus in the future. They are currently working on completing construction for middle and high school to be housed at the Port Royal Campus, and they will then make plans to construct an elementary school building on that campus as well.
Right now, Kindergarten is housed at the Celadon Campus on Lady's Island. There is no transportation from home to school, so you will need to make arrangements to drive your child to and from school. There is transportation from the Boundary Street Campus to the Celadon Campus if your child utilizes the early morning care program.
Bridges is a STEM school that employs the Paideia methodology. I had never heard of Paideia prior to Bridges opening, so I was very curious to learn more. According to the school's website, Paideia is a holistic, whole-child approach to life-long learning with roots in ancient Greece. In contemporary schools across the United States and a few other countries, Paideia is a set of beliefs about education including active and rigorous teaching methods.The Paideia Program is based on the belief that the human species is defined by its capacity and desire for learning. The program itself argues for a public education that is at once more rigorous and more accessible. To learn more about Paideia, you can visit www.Paideia.org.
If you need morning care for your child before school and/or care for your child after school, Bridges has some options for you made available by the Boys & Girls Club. Early morning care is offered at the Boundary Street campus beginning at 7 AM. After school care is also available, and this program is fee based.
If you're interested in learning more about Bridges, they will be hosting an informative day in the spring. The date has not been confirmed at this time, but they will announce it to the public soon. You can set up a tour anytime by calling the front desk and speaking to Joan Drury (843-982-7737).
Option 3: Lowcountry Montessori School
Facebook: Lowcountry Montessori School
Class Size: 20-25
Early Care/After Care: Yes
-3 Kindergarten Classrooms
-All Kindergarten classrooms have 2 co-teachers and an assistant that floats between the 3 kindergarten classrooms
-Related Arts/Specials: Spanish, Art, PE, Practical Life
-Academic Approach/Focus: Montessori
Lowcountry Montessori School is the second charter school on our list of options for free Kindergarten in northern Beaufort County. Open since 2014, LMS provides an authentic Montessori-based program to students from Beaufort and surrounding counties. Entry and enrollment at LMS is done by lottery; meaning, all new applicants are assigned a number, placed in a pool, and available spots will be filled by randomly selecting from the pool during the lottery. Their lottery will take place on February 26th.
LMS is currently accepting application and will through January 31st. You can fill out an application here or by completing a paper copy at the front office.
Grades PK3-12 all are housed at their recently built school located in Shell Point. Classes are multiage; this means that they blend the ages and abilities of children together within one classroom. The kindergarteners are in a classroom with PK3 & PK4, ages ranging from 3 to 5.
LMS's website says that the Montessori method of education, developed by Dr. Maria Montessori, is a child-centered educational approach based on scientific observations of children from birth to adulthood. Dr. Montessori’s Method has been time tested, with over 100 years of success in diverse cultures throughout the world. It is an approach that values the human spirit and the development of the whole child—physical, social, emotional, cognitive. Find out more information about Montessori by visiting this page on the website.
If you are in need of early care of after care, Lowcountry Montessori School has some options for you. Early care begins at 7 AM and costs $4 per morning and just $2 if your child is there for half the early care morning time. Their after school program runs from 3:45-6:00 and is $15 for the entire session. If your child stays less than that time, the cost will be adjusted.
You can also find out more and check out the school in person any Tuesday at 9:30 AM throughout January and February. LMS also hosts "International Night" each year in which students and families all take part. Visitors are welcome to come to "International Night" on February 21st to take a self-guided tour through the building. Give the school a call at 843-322-0577 to ask specific questions.
Option 4: Riverview Charter School
Facebook: Riverview Charter School
Class Size: 19 (all classes throughout the school are capped at 19)
Uniform: Yes; Collared shirts in light yellow, light blue, navy, or white, navy or khaki bottoms
Early Care/After Care: Yes
-4 Kindergarten Classrooms
-All Kindergarten classrooms have a lead teacher and an assistant teacher
-Related Arts/Specials: spanish, guidance, art, dance, PE
-Academic Approach/Focus: Using experiential principles as our guide, RCS will employ a variety of research-based educational approaches to help students accomplish the South Carolina Academic Standards through meaningful learning experiences (taken from RCS's website).
The last school in our roundup of Kindergarten options is Riverview Charter School. Sponsored by the Beaufort County School District, Riverview was the first charter school in Beaufort County. Entry and enrollment, just like the other two charter schools, is lottery based. Their lottery date will be announced, so keep your eyes out for that date on their website and/or Facebook page.
Riverview is accepting applications now through January 31st. You can complete an application here.
RCS serves grades K-8 at their school in Shell Point on Savannah Highway. Their innovative approaches to teaching and learning encourages students to "learn by doing" and prepares them to succeed in a global society. Character education is also a big component of their philosophy, and their core values underscore everything they do. Riverview's website says they welcome Beaufort County families seeking excellence in education. With high expectations at the center of both academics and discipline, RCS attracts families who desire a rigorous, experiential, whole-child approach to education. Families who choose Riverview want to be actively involved in their child’s school community, and support Riverview in its mission.
Riverview offers early care and after care through their own Tidewatch program. Morning care begins at 7:15 AM and is $3 per morning. After care is $15 per day or $70 per week. Riverview created this program to align with their values, providing meaningful and engaging activities to encourage community. Learn more here.
If you're interested in learning more about Riverview, you can pop in for a tour any Wednesday at 9 AM during the month of January. They will also have an open house on January 24th from 5:30-6:30. When I called, they said feel free to attend both because each experience will be slightly different. If you cannot make it to Riverview to tour in January, you can call the front desk to schedule a tour (843-379-0123). You can also ask questions by sending them an e-mail at email@example.com.
I can offer a personal recommendation for this school, as my son has been there for 2.5 years now. I love it, and I'd be happy to chat more if you would like a parent perspective. Reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With all the options, it can feel difficult to make a decision because we all want what's best for our child. The best advice I can give you is to go into the schools you are considering during the day when teachers and students are present. When you walk into the school, how does it make you feel? What are the students doing? Do you they look engaged and happy? How do the teachers look? Are they welcoming and pleasant? What's on the walls? Does the staff seem happy to help you and inform you?
No matter where your child goes to kindergarten, be excited, open-minded, and enthusiastic - your child will see this and be excited, open-minded, and enthusiastic too! :)