University of Pittsburgh
August 25, 2009

Special Welcoming Event Planned for Hill District Kindergarten Students

"Ready Freddy" program developed by University of Pittsburgh Office of Child Development

Sharon Blake


Cell: 412-277-6926

PITTSBURGH-Kindergarten students at Weil Elementary School, 2250 Centre Ave., the Hill District, will begin their school year walking through a "human pathway" of loving parents and supportive community members. The event will be held from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. Aug. 28, the students' first day of class.

Parents, neighbors, friends, and members of the United Way, Beginning With Books, the Fatherhood Initiative, and area foundations will join hands to create a pathway for the youngsters as they enter the school building. Ready Freddy-a green frog mascot-will greet the new students, and coffee and bagels for the parents and fruit for the kindergarteners will be provided.

This event is part of the Ready Freddy Program, created by Pitt's Office of Child Development (OCD) 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 says 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 are expected to arrive on Aug. 28.

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.