While most kids get settled into the classroom and meet their teacher on Day One of the school year, many kindergartners in the Bend-La Pine School District don’t learn where they’ll be parked until a few days after first walking through the doors.
That delay is intentional — a program that might be the only one if its kind in Oregon. It’s an effort to mix and match kids and teachers — almost like speed dating.
At Ponderosa Elementary, 60 kindergartners bounced between three classrooms in this cuteness shuffle over the past week.
“This just gives us a chance to get to know them, their needs, their strengths,” said principal Patrick Flanagan.
A boy named Wesley tells us the teachers’ names.
“Ms. Smith, Mr. McKnight, and Ms. Brown.”
Those three teachers double as counselors for what Ponderosa calls “Kindergarten Camp.”
“They plan this all out, coordinate with each other, make sure that they’re rotating groups throughout the day,” Flanagan said.
For the first few days of school, the newest members of the Ponderosa Porcupines don’t have a designated den. They don’t know who their permanent teacher will be the rest of the year — at least, not yet.
“Basically, the big idea is instead of assigning them to classes right away, we have an opportunity for them to meet the different adults and to meet each other … kind of see how they interact,” Flanagan said.
“It also helps us as a school to make sure we have like good personality and support fits.”
As the days progress, the process that some call a switcheroo zoo tames down.
“So they can kinda sorta test run things, too, for a half a day or a day to see if it’s a good fit,” Flanagan said, “and then make more adjustments as we go.”
The moves become fewer and fewer as the final rosters are solidified.
Halfway through camp, nearly six-year-old Isla is clued in.
“Ms. Brown. I mean, that’s probably who I am going to get,” Isla said.
Once the daily dances are done and the routine is set, these Porcupines can nestle into their homerooms as camp turns into a classroom. Wednesday was the day Ponderosa was aiming to have all the class rosters set.
It turns out this process is not a typical one, at least not in Oregon. We reached out to five local school districts and ten across the state. Of those we heard back from, none do anything to the extent that Ponderosa Elementary and most of Bend-La Pine do. While some schools have conferences or one-on-one time with teachers and students to help decide class lists, they don’t go as far as spending days in a kindergarten camp.