No, it's not December 31st. New Year's Day is more than half a year away. But, for a great number of folks, this is THE END of a year - a school year. Most people who attend or work in schools feel as though they should be celebrating with champagne and noisemakers. It's finally over!

I spent 49 consecutive years (from age 6 to retirement at 55) waiting for the last day of school. When I was an elementary student, I looked forward to time to play during summer vacation. When I was a high school student, I knew that summer meant work, work, work to earn money for college. When I was a college student, I knew that summer meant work, work, work to earn more money for college. When I became a teacher, I knew that summer meant studying in search of an advanced degree. And, when I became a principal, I knew that summer meant getting ready for the next school term.

Actually, it wasn't until I retired that I realized my whole psychological make-up was screwed up. My New Year began in September and ended in June. Anyone who has been associated with schools their entire life will certainly appreciate that thought.

Having survived quite a few "end of school year" experiences, I have some suggestions for parents. You can help your child finish off the old year with a minimum of stress. Here's how:

1. Give your child an empty address book and allow him to take it to school with him the last few days. Have him record the address and phone number of his friends and his favorite teachers. This will help make the transition from one grade to another a little easier. Some teachers may not be happy giving out their phone number. Let your child know this ahead of time so he won't be upset. (In my mind, a teacher who doesn't give out his phone number on the FIRST day of school is wrong. Kids need to be able to contact their teachers.)

2. Check out the "Lost and Found" area of your child's school. Each summer, tons of personal belongings are given to charity or thrown away. Items as important as prescription glasses often sit in a Lost and Found box for many months.

3. Give your child's teacher some evidence of your thanks for a good school year. A complimentary note is always appreciated. Also, remember the other people who worked with your child during the year (counselor, secretary, custodian, principal, special teachers, bus driver, aides). They also deserve your thanks.

4. Find out from the school what summer programs are being offered. If your child is interested, sign him up. He might enjoy computers, swimming, creative writing, or even remedial math. Do NOT under any circumstances force your child to attend summer school unless he wants to go. The only exception to this rule is if your child has failed and is required to do remedial work.

5. For a week or two after school ends, allow your child to visit the school building. Perhaps all it will be is a walk around the playground, but sometimes certain kids need a period of transition.

6. Try and meet your child's new teacher(s) during the summer. Call the school and ask that the new instructors get in touch with you. Perhaps there will be a day when he/she is working in the classroom and you and your child can go and visit briefly.

7. If you have any questions about your child's final report card grades, call the school immediately. Don't wait until September to clear up problems. If there can be tutoring or summer school to erase an academic deficit, you will find out right away and be able to deal with the issue.

8. Find out what is expected of your child for the next grade level. Obtain a copy of the grade curriculum outline and start to gather resource books that will help with next year's studies.

9. Remember that - in most public schools - the librarians work some weeks during the summer. If you aren't close to a public library, ask for permission for your child to use the school library during summer break. Reading during the summer should be a "must" in your home.

10. The most important summer activities should be family-oriented. Summer is a perfect time for parents and children to enjoy each other's company.

Ending a school year is an exciting and trying time. If your child is a kindergarten student who is worried about going to first grade or a college graduate who is worried about getting a job or going to grad school, life is not boring during the year's end.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO CONTACT DR. SMITH, SHE CAN BE REACHED AT HER EMAIL ADDRESS: JSMITH1313@CFL.RR.COM OR IN CARE OF THIS ENWSPAPER.