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‘March Dadness’ gets parents involved in pre-K classes

March 22, 2019

PLAQUEMINE, La. (AP) — Carlee Bell’s braids bounced on her head as she moved, a purple bow as big and loud as her 4-year-old personality trying in vain to hold them in place.

She tugged on the sleeves of other kids attempting to elicit the same enthusiasm, and her puffer jacket swooshed as she threw her arms in the air over and over again.

“Go daddy, that’s my daddy,” she shouted, all but drowned out by the buzzers, whistles, cheers, tantrums and movement you get when trying to seat hundreds of 3- and 4-year-olds to watch a game of pickup basketball.

Some of the kids cried, others wondered aloud what would be for lunch, and more still chatted among themselves, but not Carlee. She watches her dad, Carl Bell Jr., play basketball three nights a week at the sportsplex on Perkins Road and she knows what to look for.

“Every night of the week that’s my little cheerleader,” he said, wiping the post-game sweat from his face as his daughter shuffled from heel-to-toe beside him.

Bell was one of the dads who signed up for “March Dadness,” a week-long Iberville Parish School District initiative to promote parental involvement in pre-K classes. Administrators say having parents involved and aware of what happens in schools — especially pre-K classes — helps with everything from attendance to continued learning at home.

Throughout the week they’ve done everything from eat lunch together to create crafts, but Tuesday’s schedule saw the dads physically acting out the initiative’s namesake with a basketball tournament at Plaquemine High School.

“We’re really trying to get the parents to realize early on how important it is to be involved, and how it’s of benefit in the long run for years to come,” said Lydia Canova, Iberville schools’ early childhood coordinator. “It’s not just a matter of becoming involved in third grade when there’s a problem needing intervention, but about being involved the whole way up to that point so it’s addressed early.”

Canova said attendance rates for 3-and 4-year-olds are traditionally low, as many parents treat pre-K classes as an option rather than a necessity before kindergarten, dropping kids in late or taking them out of school often.

A requirement of the district’s Headstart funding is implementing a fatherhood-related initiative and where in the past they’ve done sporadic events like “donuts with dad” at school, Canova said administrators decided on a week full of activities to really strengthen the bond.

And it appeared it worked for most of the kids Tuesday cheering on their dads. The students were split into sections representing each of the district’s five schools with a pre-K program, and once each school’s representative team had played, the kids left the gym for lunch with their dads.

There were breakouts of school chants, interludes of the “Baby Shark” dance to keep wiggly feet occupied, and in Carlee’s case, a little trash talk.

“I told him if you want to win the game, you’ve got to get the basketball more, but he’s got no swag moves,” the MSA East student said. She had just pointed him out on the court as “the one that’s really sweaty.”

Bell said he tries to make it to every event the school holds for parents and plans to be there every day for the March Dadness events. When he finished his game, with a few layups under his belt, Carlee anxiously waited for him to come over to the bleachers and made sure all the friends surrounding her knew that her dad had just played the game.

“Whenever he’s around me my daddy presses his ‘super’ button,” she said, before running off to deliver what appeared to be a series of stern post-game pointers for next time.

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Information from: The Advocate, http://theadvocate.com