Back to School 2017

As summer winds down, children’s thoughts across Southwest Orlando will inevitably turn to the first day of school. The school year, which begins Aug. 14, is less than a month away, and students and their families can get a head start by preparing now. The beginning of school is an exciting time, but some might worry about what the coming year may hold.

Southwest Orlando Bulletin’s 20th annual Back to School section provides a comprehensive look at a variety of school-related topics. In the following articles, area experts offer insights into different concerns often brought about by the start of a new school year. For students, there is an article about skin care. For parents, there is information about dental hygiene, healthy skin, stress management for the family, and more.

• Are Your Kids Skin-Ready for School?

by Michael Steppie, M.D., President, Medical Director

Associates in Dermatology


It’s that special time of year. Time for parents and their children to start trading pool floats for pencils, summer camps for classrooms, and picnics for packed lunches. Here are a few tips and tricks to keep you and your family’s skin healthy and ready for the new school year:

  • Check your family’s skin products. If anyone has sensitive skin or a history of eczema, this is even more important. Look for the word “hypoallergenic” on all soaps, lotions and detergents. This term means the product is free of irritating dyes, fragrances and substances that may cause an allergic reaction.
  • Don’t forget the sunscreen! Summer may be coming to an end, but remember to keep your children protected with a “broad spectrum” sunscreen SPF of 30 or higher.
  • Tame acne. Most of us remember high school and the growing pains of self-confidence. Add acne to the mix, and you might have an emotional teenager on your hands. Avoid being influenced by highly advertised brands and visit a dermatologist to prescribe the most suitable acne treatment.

So, while kids enjoy the last few days of summer freedom, keep their skin in mind. An ounce of prevention — and sunscreen — goes a long way. Over-the-counter tips, tricks and old wives remedies can treat many skin conditions; however, know when to seek professional advice, and keep your family’s skin healthy for all seasons to come.

• The Critical Skills Learned Through Theatrical Education

by Bailey Morris

Orlando Repertory Theatre


It’s back-to-school time, and that means back-to-school shopping. Most school-supply lists tend to include the basics: a backpack, lunchbox, pencils, notebooks — the list goes on and on. But what about things like self-confidence, team-building skills and creative thinking?

Theater classes and productions can help K-12 students develop their skills as a performer. They also enhance other critical skills that they’ll carry with them as they enter adulthood and begin their careers — no matter in what industry.

As an extension of performing with their peers or in front of an audience, students improve their self-confidence with a theater program. They also boost their verbal and nonverbal communication skills by memorizing lines and implementing the right kind of body language to complement those lines.

This fall, challenge your student to put down his or her smartphone and pick up a script to learn valuable life skills alongside their peers in a fun and creative way.

• Reasons Home Schooling Is on the Rise

by Dannette Kelly, Program Assistant

Classical School of The First Academy


According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the percentage of home-schooled students in the United States has doubled between 1999 and 2012. The NCES report also noted that there are wide arrays of reasons parents choose to home-school their children, from avoiding negative peer pressure, adding an increase in religious instruction, adding an increase in family time, and having the ability to travel.

Home schooling across the nation is booming. Although home schooling can take many forms, a hybrid program allows families to have flexibility with the educational support they desire. This has proven to be especially beneficial to those students who are pursuing other passions, whether it is the arts, athletics or other extracurricular activities. Home schooling has now become the first choice for many families in Central Florida.

• A Child’s Vision Is Critical to Learning

by Louis Blumenfeld, M.D.,

Pediatric Ophthalmologist

Eye Physicians of Central Florida


As children are approaching a new school year, it is important to think about their vision. About 80 percent of learning in a child’s first 12 years comes through their eyes. Good vision is critical, not only to their ability to read, learn and develop, but it can also impact personality, behavior, social skills and self-esteem. Ophthalmologists have long recognized that children’s eyes are unique and quite different from adult eyes.

Common reasons to see a pediatric ophthalmologist include a change in the appearance or misalignment of the eyes, failed vision screening at a doctor’s office or school, and visual symptoms or squinting. Other reasons may include a family history of eye diseases, such as lazy eye or medical conditions/medications associated with eye problems.

A child’s eyes can be examined at any age, even as young as 1 day old if necessary. A need for eyeglasses may be determined in children even if they are not able to speak or read a chart. This is done with special equipment used to see how light reflects off the inner surface of the eye through special lenses.

• Time to Schedule Back-To-School Physicals

by Bindu Parekattil, M.D., FAAP

Ocoee Pediatrics


It’s that time of year again — you’re in the middle of summer activities, and all of a sudden you realize there are only a few weeks left before school starts. Along with school supplies and new clothes, back-to-school physicals should also be on the list of things to do before the school year begins.

Yearly physicals are a great opportunity to catch issues early, such as growth disturbances, screening for diabetes and cholesterol, monitoring blood pressure, and checking any vision and hearing concerns. For example, the doctor may notice that your child has not grown as expected in the past year. If they have previous heights in the past four to five years, they can see what pattern is developing and whether there could be an underlying growth issue. Your doctor also provides information and screening for nutrition, safety, child development and mental health. In addition, immunization records are reviewed for any needed vaccines. Vaccinations are an important preventative measure that keeps children healthy. We no longer need to worry about diseases such as polio, which has been eradicated in the U.S.

Getting your child’s yearly physical and immunizations will help keep your child healthy and active.

• The Purpose of the Skin Care Process

by Debbie Wisner, President, & Debby Tapia, Vice President

Maile Imaging, Modeling, Acting


No matter what age you are, skin care is the most essential part of the total beauty regime. If your skin is healthy and glowing, then any makeup applied over it will be picture-perfect, too. It is important that you understand the purpose of each step in the skin care process.

Follow these steps twice a day for healthy skin:

  • Cleanser — Removes dead surface skin cells and surface dirt such as makeup, perspiration and environmental residue.
  • Astringents/Toners — The second step of the cleansing process removes traces of the primary cleanser, making sure the skin is truly clean and pH-balanced.
  • Moisturizers — Help to build water levels within the skin by preventing the skin’s natural moisture from evaporating. This is like a drink of water to the skin.
  • Masques — Are available in many forms to meet the wide range of skin care needs for various skin types.

Don’t be influenced by big, expensive brands. The less-expensive ones are just as good, if not better. Remember, what works for you is the most important.

• For a Less-Stressed Back-To-School Transition

by Dawn Douglas, Co-Owner

Massage Envy Dr. Phillips


Getting everything ready for the kids to go back to school is no easy task. Bouncing from one store to the next, trying to find just the right outfits and school supplies can leave you feeling drained and stressed out. Make sure to remember and take the time you need to relax throughout the process. This will help you and, ultimately, your children stay calm and have smooth sailing into the new school year.

Consider a massage or a facial to help you unwind. Massage can help ease muscle aches and body pains, as well as help you shed stress during some of your most stressful times.

• A Love for Learning

by Sarah Donovan, Director of Admissions

The First Academy


Is your child a lifelong learner? How do you create a love for learning? The following are a few tried-and-true tips for both parents and educators:

First, catch your child’s curiosity. When your child shows a natural interest or passion in something, use it. Once your child shows a spark of excitement and curiosity, help them pursue more resources or information about it. There is an abundance of digital resources, but don’t forget about good old-fashion hands-on experiences, too.

Second, let your child run after the questions. Let them do the heavy lifting to find the answers. When they ask a question, facilitate them in finding the answer. Keep a notebook, whiteboard or digital list of all the questions they have asked and answers they have found.

Next, give choices. Let your child steer the way for a family outing or experience. Giving them the freedom and ownership will pave the way for higher engagement. They chose it, so they own it!

Finally, make the time. It seems cliché, but you can never overestimate setting aside time for exploration. Even a short walk around the neighborhood can open the door to a whole new world.

• How Performing Arts Classes Influence Your Child

by Hillary Brook, Executive Director

Theatre South Playhouse


Theater, dance and music are important art forms to study, but they also can have a huge influence on your children, not only on how they perform onstage, but also how they perform in real life. The tools learned in the “theater world setting” prepare children with basic life-coping skills. The self-confidence gained in being a part of a cast or “ensemble” of a theatrical play or dance class can prepare your children to hold their heads up high in school, ace their oral exams, boost their classroom confidence, and protect them against bullying. When they are taught acting, they are taught to be strong, humble and creative human beings. They leave classes and productions with strong confidence and a greater understanding of human character. These classes unleash children’s imaginations and teach them that there is nothing they cannot accomplish.

• Good Dental Hygiene Is a Must

by David Boers, D.D.S., PA

Chain of Lakes Cosmetic & Family Dentistry


It’s almost time for children to get back on the bus to head into another year of school. The new school year is the perfect time to make sure that the family is up-to-date on all their preventative dental work. It is also an excellent time to begin new routines or improve existing routines around dental hygiene.

Practicing good dental hygiene methods can help you prevent major dental work down the road. Take your children to the dentist early and often, and also make sure that your college-age students have their exams before they head off to campus.

• Starting the New School Year on the Right Foot

by Paul Palazzo, Owner

Windermere Shoes


Get your student off to a new school year on the right foot. Having the right shoes in your student’s life is not only important for their style and comfort walking to and from class, it also plays an important role in their posture and ability to perform school activities. The wrong fit or a shoe that is too narrow or too wide can be causes of miserable school days.

Make sure that your pupil is fit for the correct shoe size when you are shopping. Younger children’s feet grow fast and frequently, so this is especially important when buying for elementary and middle school students. Also, be sure to check your school’s uniform policy for specifics on shoe requirements. Many schools require a certain style or color to be compliant with their policies.

• Preparing for Preschool

by Deanna Gustafson, Director

Childrens Lighthouse Learning Center

of People of Faith


Preschool offers many benefits for children. It is a great place for kids to interact with peers and learn valuable life lessons. It also prepares them for kindergarten and beyond. Preparing for a new school year can set the tone for a positive experience for everyone.

Summertime schedules are often much more relaxed, but children do well with routines, so establishing a school routine early on is important. Before school starts, get your preschoolers accustomed to getting up and going to bed at a certain time every day.

Listen to your preschooler and answer any questions they might have. Sharing insights about when you were in school can be beneficial on multiple levels. Reading books about school together is a great bonding time, and often the books will spark a great discussion.

For first-timers attending school, show them where they will be going by attending an open house. Knowing their classroom and meeting their teacher ahead of time eases potential anxiety.

Sometimes young children — and even parents — deal with separation anxiety during back-to-school time. In both cases, those feeling are completely normal. The more assurance you can project, the more confident and secure your child will feel. ♥

Before- & After-School Activities

CRANIUM ACADEMY, 4068 Winter Garden Vineland Road, Winter Garden, 407-294-6950, Cranium Academy is a prestigious private school, revolutionizing preschool through fifth-grade education. Students benefit from a unique combination of advanced curriculum, featuring custom learning paths, critical thinking, innovative technology and creative play experiences. The staff at Cranium Academy seeks to develop lifelong learning advantages and inspire a true love of learning in their students. The academy also offers exceptional summer camps, birthday parties, after-school programs and more.

HUNTINGTON LEARNING CENTER, 5060 Dr. Phillips Blvd., Orlando, 407-290-1111. Huntington Learning Center is a voice for your child. Children often don’t know how to tell parents if something is wrong or what the problem is. They don’t know how to express themselves. Huntington Learning Center’s staff teaches children how to read and write properly and how to organize their thoughts. Once children master how to express themselves, problems cease to be problems. Put the fun back in your child, give them back their childhood, give them their future — that’s what Huntington Learning Center is all about!

MAILE IMAGING, MODELING, ACTING, 999 S. Orlando Ave., Winter Park, 407-628-5989, Maile Image, Modeling, Acting offers several after-school programs. Etiquette After-School classes are Mondays from 4-5:30 p.m., On-Camera Acting is Tuesdays from 3:45-5:45 p.m., Kids Modeling & Image is Wednesdays from 3:45-5:45 p.m., and Performing All-Star Troop is Wednesdays from 4:30-6:30 p.m.

ORLANDO REPERTORY THEATRE, 1001 E. Princeton Street, Orlando, 407-896-7365, Orlando Repertory Theatre, known as Orlando REP, strives to create quality theater for family that entertains, enriches and enlightens. Students of all ages can find many ways to get involved, from participating in Youth Academy classes to attending productions to volunteer ushering to participating in Writes of Spring to serving on the Student Advisory Board and more! Located near downtown Orlando in Loch Haven Cultural Park, Orlando REP is Florida’s only full-time professional theater for young audiences. It offers Youth Academy classes, creates community engagement programming, and is home to the University of Florida’s MFA program in Theatre for Young Audiences.

THEATRE SOUTH PLAYHOUSE, in The Marketplace at Dr. Phillips, 7601 Della Drive, Suite 15, Orlando, 407-489-4458, Theatre South Playhouse is a professional and youth theater company that offers classes in acting, musical theater and dance for children, teens and adults. Private lessons in voice, piano, guitar, dance and acting, all taught by professionals currently working in their field, are also available. Youth auditions take place Aug. 12 and Aug. 13 for its fall musicals. Professional shows, play readings, cabaret and comedy nights are performed right in Southwest Orlando! To register for classes, private lessons or to schedule an audition for Annie Kids (K-6th) or Legally Blonde Jr. The Musical (6th-12th grade), visit This nonprofit theater company gives back one show at a time. ♥

Orange County Public Schools 2017-18 Student Calendar

Aug. 14                   First day of school
Sept. 4                    Holiday
Oct. 13                    First marking period ends
Oct. 16                    Holiday
Oct. 27                    Holiday
Nov. 20-24               Thanksgiving Break
Dec. 21                   Second marking period ends
Dec. 22                   Holiday
Dec. 25-Jan. 5         Winter Break
Jan. 15                    Holiday
Feb. 19                    Holiday
March 15                 Third marking period ends
March 16                 Holiday
March 19-23            Spring Break
May 28                    Holiday
May 30                    Last day of school

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