DALLAS -- Nolan May is ready for school.The soon-to-be Oakdale Heights Elementary School kindergartener has been counting down the days -- he can count to 100, by the way -- until he can put on his new backpack and go to class."He's been asking me, `Is it time to go to school yet, mom? How many more days? Who is going to be in my class?'" said Laura May, Nolan's mom.Nolan's older twin brothers, David and Henry, both 6, are going into first grade this year, so Nolan has the benefit of knowing they had a good time in kindergarten.Still, Nolan, 5, already has begun using the reading, writing and math skills he will need to master this school year."We've been working with him probably since last year when his brothers went into kindergarten, but it definitely has intensified over the summer," Laura May said. "He's been practicing his numbers for sure and doing his name appropriately."For Nolan, spelling his name is child's play; he proudly writes his first name on all of his drawings. Photo by Jolene Guzman Five-year-old Nolan May inspects a package of glue sticks Aug. 21 at his family's home in Dallas. The soon-to-be kindergartener at Oakdale Heights Elementary already has all his school supplies ready. Writing out the whole alphabet is more challenging, but he recites it to himself and, with a little help from his mom, carefully writes out each letter.Nolan's family has also scheduled "play dates" with children who are not his siblings to get him ready for spending a few hours a day with his future classmates.The May family seems to have all the bases covered, but for many parents sending a child to kindergarten can be intimidating.It may be the first time a child has spent significant time away from their parents and in a social environment. For many, it also is the first time their academic progress will be measured.Oakdale Heights Principal Caleb Harris said elementary schools are aware of the concerns about sending youngsters off to school for the first time -- or maybe the second or third time -- and have made some back-to-school changes to ease parents' minds.This year, both Oakdale Heights and Lyle elementary schools in Dallas will host an "Orientation Day" on what would normally be the first day of school.Both schools will be open throughout the day so parents can drop in with their children to spend a few hours checking out classrooms, meeting teachers and learning about school resources and activities. Attendance is mandatory, but families can arrive at any time and stay however long they like.Harris said the event will replace the open houses typically held a few weeks after school begins."At our hour-long open houses in the past, parents didn't have a lot of time to talk," Harris said. "We are trying to create an environment where parents and students can talk to teachers and understand expectations."In addition, Dallas elementary schools have begun sending home "Top 10" to-do lists at the beginning of summer to help parents prepare students for the next school year. A similar list is given to those incoming kindergarteners.Harris said many parents may be surprised that their children will be expected to write a simple sentence, with appropriate punctuation, by the end of the year."We have to have beginning readers when they come out of kindergarten," Harris said.Nolan may not be quite to that level yet, but he certainly will be ready to work toward it.He has all his school supplies safely stowed away in his new bright blue backpack. Peering into the pack, he took each item out one at a time."There are eight colors of these," Nolan said, holding his new markers. "That's why it says `eight' on it."Nolan then counts his crayons (14) and glue sticks (12), announcing with flair how many are in each package.He's eager to begin using his new markers, pencils and crayons. When asked what he thinks he will be doing in class this fall, he said: "Make some cool drawings."Oh, and spend time on the playground, too, he said."You aren't nervous to be away from me?" asked Nolan's mom.At first he shook his head, but then he stopped, and nodded his head. Photo by Pete Strong Kindergarten teacher Kelly Wollemann decorates her classroom with colorful month placards Monday at Oakdale Heights. "Maybe a little bit?" she asked again, smiling at his uncertainty. Nolan shook his head, with a little more confidence."No? All right. I'll take it," she said."I've been with you all the time," Nolan said in response."So now you are ready to go to school?" she asked again.This time he nodded his head without hesitation.Laura, on the other hand, is a little more conflicted about the journey her son is about to embark on."It's bittersweet," she said. "I know he is in really good hands at Oakdale Heights, but he's still my little guy." Getting ready for kindergarten -- seven tips for parents: * Sing the alphabet to your child whenever possible. If you can write out the alphabet and point to each letter as you sing, even better.* Count to 10 or even higher if they can. The goal is to count to 100 by the end of the school year.* Teach your child how to properly hold a pencil (or crayon or marker) and write his or her name.* Have your child identify and write all the letters in his or her name. Practice this every day and look for other opportunities to have your child identify letters -- both in the lower case and upper case forms.* Teach cutting skills. Show your child how to properly hold kid-friendly scissors and cut out pictures in newspapers and magazines.* Practice identifying the following colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, brown, black, pink, gray and white.* Practice identifying the following shapes: circle, square, triangle and oval.Source: Dallas School District Back to School Contact Information Dallas School District office -- 111 SW Ash St., Dallas; 503-623-5594; www.dsd2.org.* Lyle Elementary School: 185 SW Levens St., 503-623-8367.* Oakdale Heights Elementary School: 1375 SW Maple St., 503-623-8316.* Whitworth Elementary School: 1151 SE Miller St., 503-623-8351.* LaCreole Middle School: 701 SE LaCreole Drive, 503-623-6662.* Morrison Campus Alternative School: 1251 Main St., 503-623-8480.* Dallas High School: 1250 SE Holman Ave., 503-623-8336. Central School District office -- 1610 Monmouth St., Independence; 503-838-0030; www.central.k12.or.us.* Ash Creek Elementary School: 1360 N. 16th St., Monmouth; 503-606-9016.* Independence Elementary School: 150 S. Fourth St., Independence; 503-838-1322 or 503-606-2160.* Monmouth Elementary School: 1610 Monmouth St., Independence; 503-838-0030.* Talmadge Middle School: 51 S. 16th St., Independence; 503-606-2252.* Central High School: 1530 Monmouth St., Independence; 503-838-0480.Falls City School District -- 111 N. Main St., Falls City; 503-787-3521; www.fallscityschools.org.Perrydale School District -- 7445 Perrydale Road, Amity; 503-623-2040; www.perrydale.k12.or.us.Luckiamute Valley Charter School -- 17475 Bridgeport Road, Dallas; 503-623-4837; www.lvcs.k12.or.us.Kings Valley Charter School -- 38840 Kings Valley Highway, Philomath; 541-929-2134; www.sites.google.com/a/kvschool.org.kvcs.