Sandy Spring Friends School



Getting Set for School: 8 Steps for Navigating the Back-to-School Buzz

Getting Set for School: 8 Steps for Navigating the Back-to-School Buzz

With summer camps winding down, some of the leaves on campus beginning to turn, and your favorite teachers already back on campus for our annual Faculty-Staff Institute, we know it’s time for a “Gnu” school year! Read on for our top 8 ways to start the 2023-2024 school year strong. 

1. Revisit Reading (and Summer Assignments)

Our dedicated PK3-12th-grade faculty were thoughtful in preparing a delightful assortment of developmentally-appropriate enrichment and homework activities for the sun-filled months of summer. Hopefully these activities struck the intended balance between enjoyment and manageability, facilitating a fun and relaxing summer while providing meaningful learning experiences. However, if the learning part somehow fell by the wayside, it’s not too late to check the assignment list: just visit the Parent Portal for all the details about summer homework and enrichment, organized by division! And don’t forget, parents/guardians were emailed some summer homework, too—check your inbox for emails sent 6/30 and 7/29!

2. Find Those Forms

Our students' health and safety are our top priority, and the deadline for SSFS students to have all their Magnus Health forms and requirements completed and submitted to the Magnus portal was July 15. This includes a current physical exam form (note that physical exams expire one year from the date performed), vaccine records, and emergency action plans, if applicable. If you’ve been archiving those auto-generated reminders from Magnus (or if you're just now discovering that they went to a spam folder!), now is the time to log in to the Parent Portal, navigate to Magnus, and make sure your child is good to go. If you run into any snafus, our Tech Department has created a step-by-step Magnus Health tutorial for our families, and if you have any physical health-related questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact our Health Center Staff at Pro tip: with several fall field trips on the calendar, prepare now to provide the Health Center with labeled, unopened medications to accompany your child on their trip. 

3. Equip for Excellence

Whether it’s for supplies like pens, notebooks, and art supplies (refer to the Lower, Middle, and Upper School pages on the Parent Portal), or for some special first-day-of-school apparel, embark on a shopping adventure with your scholar. It's more than a consumer ritual; it's about sparking their excitement about the new year.

Each division has specific requirements, but some shared items/reminders include:

  • Reusable water bottle, labeled with student's name
  • Backpack with books and supplies 
  • Optional snacks for break times (Daily snacks are provided for preschoolers)
  • Dress in layers suitable for comfort in both inside and outside temperatures
  • If your child is participating in a fall sport, they should bring their gear (e.g., soccer cleats, running shoes, etc.)

4. Create a Homework Haven

Locate a cozy, quiet corner at home that can be dedicated to homework and creativity. Consider stocking it with neatly organized school supplies, warm lighting, a few bright pillows, and a dash of motivation, perhaps in the form of an inspiring quote or two. Invite your child to help set up the space with you!


5. Return to Routine

Summer can be wonderfully wild, but school-year success is best achieved through rhythms and routines. Ease into the academic cadence by gradually adjusting bedtimes, mealtimes, and wake-up times before the school year begins. Pro tip: lay out clothes, gather extracurricular gear, and charge devices (Middle and Upper School students) the evening before to greet mornings with smiles instead of sighs. 


6. Immerse in Info

Be in the know throughout the school year by following some simple steps now:

  • Bookmark the Parent Portal (desktop) or create a shortcut on your home screen (mobile). Record your username/password or manage passwords with a security tool like LastPass. Nearly everything you’ll need throughout the year can be found in the Parent Portal, including the comprehensive Onboarding Bundle you received in May, division staff contact info, attendance reporting links, the Community Handbook, School emails, links to weekly newsletters, and more. 
  • Subscribe to calendars to “automagically” see all those events that apply to your child(ren) sync to your personal calendar application! When you subscribe to “My Household Calendar” in the Parent Portal, it will all be there and will auto-update when changes occur.  If your style is more old-school or you like to post major dates via hard copy, download the 2023-2024 calendar card, which lists holidays, start and end dates, and professional development days.
  • Watch video recordings of the recent Coffee & Conversations (C&Cs) for the Upper School, Middle School, Lower School, and Athletics, each available on—you guessed it!—the Parent Portal. Even if you missed the live version, you can still get the full scoop straight from the administrators who know it best!

7. Discuss Goals, Grit, and Growth

Share a heart-to-heart with your scholarly sidekick about their goals for the upcoming year. Beyond grades, explore aspirations such as joining clubs or affinity groups (SSFS has tons!), making a new friend, reaching out to welcome a new student, or incorporating a Quaker practice such as a "moment of silence" at home. It's about embarking on new adventures and celebrating progress.

8. Partner with Your Fellow Parents/Guardians

Forge connections with fellow parents/guardians in our warm and welcoming community. Whether it's volunteering with the PA (Parents Association), connecting with families with similar identifiers through INTERSECT, or chatting with fellow parents at our regularly scheduled Coffee & Conversation (C&C) events, you’re bound to discover friendships that endure.


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