Melissa Chesser wanted to find out all she could before enrolling her first child in kindergarten many years ago, and her wealth of information came from Columbia County's annual Back-to-School Festival.
"Even though I am a county employee, I wanted information as a parent," said Chesser, a teacher at Evans Middle School. "We were able to get information that eventually led to Madison enrolling in Stephanie's Dancers, Gymnastics Gold and Girl Scouts. Madison really enjoyed the giveaways, especially the pencils, because she felt like a student, not just a kid."
This year's Back-to-School Festival will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at Evans Middle School on Hereford Farm Road. The event, which will include more than 50 vendors, is all about getting information into the hands of parents and their children.
Sponsors include University Hospital, Columbia County Board of Education, The Columbia County News-Times, and Columbia County Community and Leisure Services.
New to this year's festival will be three-point screenings by the Columbia County Health Department, in addition to parent workshops.
"Students have to have the three-point screening to get into pre-K and kindergarten," said Amy Johnston, community relations specialist at University Hospital. "And that screening needs to be updated from pre-K to kindergarten."
Additionally, parent workshops, dubbed Georgia College 411, will be held throughout the day. The four workshops -- Internet Safety, Support for Transition Years, Graduation Requirements and College Education Planning -- will last about 20 minutes each, Johnston said.
"I think going into high school, parents don't realize the importance of grades," Johnston said. "These workshops are to help them understand some of that."
The Back-to-School Festival also will include representatives from many of the county's elementary and middle schools and information on various extracurricular activities. Physicians will be on hand to offer information on immunization requirements. Students who will be riding the school bus this year will be able pick up bus schedules, and school calendars will be available.
"Last year, I didn't know that there was a Back-to-School Festival, so we didn't go," said Genevieve Amador, whose daughter attends Brookwood Elementary School. "Being that we were a military family and new to the city last year, it would have been nice to meet some people. This year, we are planning to go."
Amador said the festival will be a good launching pad to remind her daughter that "she is going to have to hit the educational grindstone once more" and to "land her feet in reality from summer vacation." She also hopes the festival will help her second-grader get over the anxiety of moving up and to remind her of the fun that she has during the school year, with all of its festivities.
"We always have a good time during any festival," Amador said.
For more information on the festival, call Johnston at (706) 828-2397.
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