Kindergarten students at Weil Elementary School in the Hill District began their school year walking through a “human pathway” of loving parents and supportive community members.

SPECIAL TREATMENT —Children get special treatment at Weil Elementary school. Top: The children are welcomed by parents and teachers and community residents. Bottom: The children receive new backpacks.

The event was held from 7:30-8:30 a.m. Aug. 28, the first day of class. Parents, neighbors, friends and members of the United Way, Beginning With Books, the Fatherhood Initiative and area foundations joined hands to create a pathway for the youngsters as they entered the school building. Ready Freddy—a green frog mascot—greeted the new students. Coffee and bagels for the parents and fruit for the children was provided. This event is part of the Ready Freddy Program, created by Pitt’s Office of Child Development to increase awareness about a child’s first day of kindergarten and to help ensure a smoother transition from home to school life.


“National studies highlight the fact that nearly half of all children struggle with the transition to kindergarten,” said Ken Smythe-Leistico, director of Pathways to School Success at OCD. “Late arrival and poor initial attendance are considered significant predictors for school failure. This year, the Ready Freddy Program is targeting those children most likely to be absent on the first day.”

The OCD staffers have been canvassing the Hill District this summer, spreading the word that Aug. 28 is the first day of school. Smythe-Leistico said a recent survey revealed that 60 percent of the children in that area have not attended preschool. In addition, attendance for the first day of kindergarten has been as low as 12 students. This year, 35 youngsters were expected to arrive.

Weil Elementary School is one of the Pittsburgh Public School District’s nine accelerated learning academies, which provide additional time for instruction and frequent monitoring of individual student progress.

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