30 answers

Focusing in School (K3)

My son turned 3 years old in October; however, has been attending K3 since Sept. He just had his second "review" to find out what he has learned this year. The "review" is held in the class where other kids are playing, parents are dropping of their kids and some stay to chat - in the classroom. He did rather well but his teacher said he has a "hard time focusing" and that he should stay back in K3 next year. My husband and I have decided to move him on to K4. Are we doing the right thing in thinking that he will learn to focus as he matures? How does one teach a child to focus?

What can I do next?

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he's only 3. 3 yr olds don't really have much focus you can only count on one minute per year. I'm not exactly what his teacher is looking for but a typical 3 yr old is very busy and dosn't want to sit and focus on anything. Once he's 4 his focus will improve. Personally I wouldn't worry until kindergarten or even first grade if he's not focusing then thats when you need to start looking at ways to help him focus.

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I would say leave him back in K3. I think it would be better to leave him back in an earlier class than to have him go forward and say, in 3rd grade, have to be held back. As stated previously, schools will not let him enter early. I had a November birthday and was the oldest in my class. If you are looking to put him in a school funded K4...I seriously doubt they would allow that. Teaching a child to focus is not the issue. He's 3 and should be allowed to develop. In my opinion, people are using schools way too early and expecting way too much out of children who are still so young.

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I'm a former school teacher and first I would say to get more information!

If you go back to the teacher and ask for another teacher to review you son's case and give specific reasons he should be held back, you will probably feel better about whatever you decide. Then, sleep on it, take the time you need, and then make a decision.

Secondly, I have to say that as a teacher, when it's warranted, it is much, much better to "hold back" early. Boys, in general, have a harder time early on in school. It is NOT unusual for them to "repeat" a grade early. If it must be done, the earlier the better!

Finally, I have a 4-year-old who will be repeating Pre-K. She turns 5 on September 10th and misses the cut-off. I'm THRILLED! My first born is quick and verbal and "gets it." My 4-year old is creative, and physical, and kind of all over the place. It's fine. No one child is better than the other, I just see how my little one can benefit from a little extra time with those emergent skill sets.

Good luck!


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he's only 3. 3 yr olds don't really have much focus you can only count on one minute per year. I'm not exactly what his teacher is looking for but a typical 3 yr old is very busy and dosn't want to sit and focus on anything. Once he's 4 his focus will improve. Personally I wouldn't worry until kindergarten or even first grade if he's not focusing then thats when you need to start looking at ways to help him focus.

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That "review" thing sounds kind of bizarre to me. What kinds of things do they ask? Like letter and number identification? Days of the week?

"Developmentally appropriate instruction" is a concept that all right-minded early childhood educators cling to.
And pouring facts into children (like water into a pitcher) and seeing how much they can parrot back is NOT appropriate for preschool. Nor is the "drill and practice" of flashcards, or "learning by rote." (Actually, it's not a good method for teaching any age group, including adults, but I digress.) At the preschool stage, is all about exploration, make believe and playing. Check out "Einstein Didn't Use Flashcards" by Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, PhD., and Roberta Golinkoff, PhD.

Numerous studies have shown that children who are enrolled in preschools and kindergartens that stress academic and didactic instruction become *less* creative than children who are in programs that emphasize playtime and make believe. "Play is the work of a young child", as Jean Piaget said.

"Kindergarten readiness" is more about self care (Can he put on his own jacket? Take his shoes on and off? Go the the bathroom independently?) If the school does circle time, it may be important for him to be able to sit fairly still for 5 or 10 minutes. And basic social skills, like being able to share without completely wigging out, or be capable of 30 seconds of "clean up" before moving to the next activity.

I have a friend whose boy Nick is 11 days younger than mine - they are both August babies, so they are always the youngest in their class. They met in the infant room at a daycare, and moved up together through each transition. Nick was always very clingy and emotional during each transition. Even now, when I babysit him, he tends to get upset over very minor setbacks and say "I want my mommy!" - I mean, he's just a little slower emotionally. In some areas, like drawing, forming letters, creating art and music, he's really impressive! But, because of the emotional thing, the teachers, principal and parents have decided to wait another year for kindergarten. And the parents are *fine* with it. (It was a little jarring at first, but they observed him closely, thought about it, considered the possibility of being held back at the second grade instead, and gradually warmed up to the idea.)

There's even another little boy at the school, he's in 3rd grade now. The kid got held back for kindergarten - again because of the emotional development thing. And at that time, that was the right decision. But a few years later,
he's always the class clown, cutting up and stuff. The parents get him tested, and it turns out the kid's a genius among geniuses. He's like those 12-year-old kids that go to Harvard - they have a PhD before they are old enough to drink beer. The school is pretty understanding, and everyone, the school, teachers, parents are scrambling to to keep him occupied and interested in school, while still keeping him with his age group.

The point is... it really shouldn't be about what they "know" or "don't know". It ought to be "what can they handle" and "are they emotionally ready".

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A. -

I find it kind of amusing that anyone would suggest holding a 3 year old back due to focusing issues...seems like the world is hell bent on putting our kids in a box and labeling them one way or the other. Here's my two cents...

Three year olds are naturally curious and easily distracted in general - some more so than others, but it's a normal thing. If he is being disruptive, then that's another issue altogether. I wouldn't be overly concerned at this point.

Some things you can try to help him learn to focus longer are:

- work on a puzzle together, or another task that requires his full attention for an extended period of time. Insist that he finishes it with you.

- have him do "sit time". This requires sitting still for short periods of time. I did this with all 5 of my children and it worked beautifully. Basically they sit still in a chair with their hands folded in their lap. Start at 1 minute and work your way up to 15 or more. My youngest, who is a 4 yr old boy, can sit still for up to an hour no problem. Training them to self control is so beneficial for both them and you.

- reward him when he does it. Take him for a special walk with Mommy, read him an extra bedtime story, etc.

I wish you the best! These little years go by so quickly...enjoy your sweet boy!

God bless. Warmly - J.

1 mom found this helpful

My husband and I held back our son for K4. His birthday is right before the cut-off here (sept 1). We did not feel at the time he was ready for kindergarten last year because of his fine motor skills and social interactions. He attended K3 and then did two years of K4. I was told that if I sent him to kindergarten that it was pretty much left up to the school if they would pass him onto the next grade. My husband knew that the school would push him ahead as he displayed no academic problems at all. We just knew him better than the schools and knew he needed that extra year for maturity. We thought it would be better for him to be one of the older kids than one of the youngest kids especially when you hit the high school age. I had a friend of mine that was held back in 8th because his parents did not feel he was socially mature enough for high school. Before we moved here from Michigan, it had been recommended through the school to place my son in the next grade level up and then into their young 5's program (which unfortnately South Carolina does not have in the public school) and then kindergarten. When we moved here, we thought it was best just to have repeat K4 again before placing him into the public school system since we still had control of it. Personally, I would put him in the K4 if you feel he is socially ready. I wouldn't worry about the focus issue. He is only 3. My son is five and his focus is just beginning to improve. He will actually sit and watch a show now. I would re-evaluate in the K4. Some where in there I think I would hold him back just because of his late birthday. I have never heard a parent say they regret holding their child back a year. I think K3 is a little early just because of the growth of maturity between 3 & 4 (at least what we saw in our son). We just knew at the end of last year our son was not ready for full-time school. We knew he would do better being the older kid rather than the younger. You know your son. If you think he is ready for K4, then put him in. You can re-evaluate it again in a year. I think there were too many distractions in the room when they assessed him. The best thing we did for my son was to hold him back a year. He has just flourished this year.

As children get older the focus gets better I wouldn't hold him back he may become bored. After next year if he's still having problems then I would see more advise on getting him to focus and talk to your doctor about it During next school year. I'd have the new teacher next keep you up dated monthly on how he is doing so that you can act upon it before he enters kindergarten it all depends on what she means by not being able to focus. If he running around the class when he should sit down and unable to control himself at age 4 during next year you don't want a repeat of that in kindergarten trust me. I can also say this I had a problem with my son who was finally by 4 doctors different and didn't know about each other I was told after much paper work my son had ADHD. It's not a bad thing either but I can say keeping him out an extra year from kindergarten was the best thing I ever did for him, if I had it to do again I'd do the same. Boys have it hard they really are not as mature as girls at the same age it's been that way for years and still is. The worst thing a parent can do in my opinion is to push a child were they aren't ready to be. My son I held back after a try in kindergarten I did withdraw him he was doing poorly had a birthday in August it's too close to the cut off date which I think didn't help him. He now is in first grade he's able to read, write, do math he's also on honor roll every grading period. It's the best thing I ever did. Just listen to the teachers sometimes they do know what a child can handle. A doctor very well known in his field said to me " it's far better to be the big fish in the classroom then to be the little fish and struggle to keep up if at all", my son is the big fish now and I'm very proud he's doing it with the struggle. My best wishes to you on what you feel is best for your family.

You are absolutely doing the right thing. First of all he is a boy (I have a 2 and a 5 year old boy). Boys learn so much through their body and are so much more busy than girls. Second, he is only three and three years old often have problems focusing and sitting still. Where does he go, maybe you should find another place. How many kids are in his class? What is the children/teacher ration? Have you been there to observe the class?
My 5 year old have had the same issues and when I observed I understood why, when they were working on numbers in a group someone was vacuuming at the same time and the children were placed in a way so my son had his back towards the teacher. Could I focus in that environment? No, I would totally loose interest.
Your child could have more focusing problems if you held him back because he would be so bored. In my opinon it sounds crazy to talk about holding back a three year old.

I wish you all luck

Honey I say move him on up. My son is in a speech therapy program at school and the teacher and therapist told me that for 3 years old if they can get him to focus for 3 to 5 minutes on 1 task then that is good. I believe as they get older they will learn to focus more and at home we can help. I was told by the therapist to read a book or color, or play some type of game. If I could get him to stay focused for 5 minutes that would be good, 10 would be great but she said whatever I do, DO NOT let him "stop" the activity himself. So if he gets tired of reading we have to finish the book, even if I hurry it along, so that he can learn that we don't stop an activity because he wants it stopped, but it's over when the adult says it's over. This will teach him respect as well. Hope this helps. Good blessings.

Wow..I'm nearly speechless. Starting the "not focusing" label at 3 now are they? If your 3 year old sat still and focused on something for an extended period of time, ignoring all the distractions you described, I suppose they'd be ready to label him autistic...??? He is practically a baby (I have an almost 3 year old myself as well as a nearly 9 year old). It really seems as if schools in general these days are looking to have kids fit inside some pre-determined box of what is "normal" without providing any concessions to children who fall somewhere else on the spectrum. Kids learn differently. Some are visual, others verbal, others kinesthic (through movement, though I'm sure I spelled that wrong), & still others are some variant of all three.
Having said that, sure, your child may be somewhat "immature" for his age compared to his classmates; however, that could be due to socialization, personality, his calendar age possibly being younger, etc. Any person at any age is going to have problems focusing in the type of environment you described. Seems the school should be pressed to provide more variants in the way kids are being taught so that all learners will benefit to include determing ways to eliminate distractions during "testing".
You know your child best, if keeping him in K3 seems inappropriate to you, progress him. If when he's in 2nd or 3rd grade and "the inability to focus" is being brought to your attention again, then re-evaluate the situation. For now, enjoy your precious, curious little boy and let kids be kids!!!!
Just my humble, albeit strong, opinion :) Best of luck to you & your child.

I agree with your decision. As your child matures and his interests increase he will learn to focus. Many times teachers expect too much of children in the age group. The purpose of K3 is to acclimate the children with the school environment and process. The child first experience with school certainly should not be failure. God bless!

You have alot of opinions- how fun! I have to agree... 3 yr olds don't focus! They are learning about the world around them. They are playing!!! They have decades to be in school! Let them be kids.

In your write up though, how can the kid focus with all the in and out activity that you described when you were having your parent teacher time.... maybe the class has too much activity going on. Is there too much stimulus? maybe it is not your child that is not focusing!

All the best... and let them be kidz!!!!! Relax, enjoy and know that you are THE BEST person to make the decisions... moms just seem to KNOW, trust yourself!

C. Hiebel

Forgive me if this is a repeat...
Just keep in mind that unless you go with private kindergarten, he'll have to repeat something, since he can't start Kindergarten the next year. He'll still be 4 when the next year starts and he won't be able to start in a public kindergarten. If he is mature enough, he could go to a private kindergarten and then start first grade after that. My son was a young 5 when he started kindergarten this past fall (end of July birthday). I really wished I had waited to start K and found a good pre k program. He is making progress academically but has trouble focusing and is immature. See if you can find out how many older 3's turning 4 would be in his class. You may need to find another preschool so that he wouldn't be repeating that exact same lessons.

All three year olds have a hard time focusing--this is natural. The schools (including daycare or Pre-Schools) should know this and make accomodations for your child. Don't worry about his "focusing" problem at 3--worry about that when he gets to Kindergarten or 1st grade--he may be ADHD but 3 is too early to tell, in my opinion.

God Bless.

I would say leave him back in K3. I think it would be better to leave him back in an earlier class than to have him go forward and say, in 3rd grade, have to be held back. As stated previously, schools will not let him enter early. I had a November birthday and was the oldest in my class. If you are looking to put him in a school funded K4...I seriously doubt they would allow that. Teaching a child to focus is not the issue. He's 3 and should be allowed to develop. In my opinion, people are using schools way too early and expecting way too much out of children who are still so young.

I agree that it is kind of an odd thing to say about a 3 year old. I have one heading to Kindergarten next year. I can't quite imagine a circumstance which would have led me to hold him back to K3. I can tell you I've seen a great increase in my son's focus this past year (he was five in December). What I mean is that he now sits for extended periods to color, do projects, etc... where he didn't have much interest in that before. So, it will hopefully come with time. Go with your gut and see how he does next year with a new teacher.

Hi A.,
My daughter started PreK 3 at a very small private school. They moved her to Prek 4 because she was advanced. She did well academically, but her behavior was very childish. For example, if she got in trouble and had to go to the corner, she would get hysterical like she had to prove that she didn't do anything wrong. When really, it wasn't that serious, go to the corner, get out, go on with life. But I found myself at the school at least every month because they'd call me and tell me that she wouldn't stop crying or she was misbehaving. Now, let me say this: my daughter is pretty well behaved at home, so I couldn't wrap my head around her behavior at school. Then came Kindergarten at the same school. She was 4 last April, so she was a very young Kindergartener. Again, she did well academically, she'd even finish her work before the rest of the class. The school didn't have to call me nearly as much last year, but her teacher would always tell me she would have a hard time staying in her seat or focusing... Well, something told me, maybe it's not my daughter, after all, she's only 4! Maybe it's their program! Yes, she learned a lot, but if they are not equipped and educated to know how to handle children of small ages with short attention spans, then of course they'll say the kids aren't "focusing." So, I went up to the school unexpectedly to "observe" what goes on during the day. Well, lo and behold, these people expected these 4 and 5 year olds to sit at desks all day with the exception of snack and lunchtime. From 8:30 to 3:00. Did they have recess? NO! Did they have play time? NO! Did they have a minute to just run around and get the heebee jeebee's out? NO! To make it even better, their "teacher" was on a TV screen. They would watch a teacher teaching a class on TV. So things started falling into place. I ended up speaking with the principal, who is also the pastor of the church and he had a bunch of excuses. Not one person in that school was educated in early childhood development. How do you expect a 3,4,5 year old to sit at a desk ALL DAY and focus on a TV screen without ever having a real break? I HARDLY SAT FLAT ON MY BUTT IN A DESK WHEN I WAS A SENIOR IN HIGH SCHOOL! SHE'S 5! LOL Now, it's time for first grade and I am absolutely not placing her back in that school. She could test into 1st grade at a public school, even though she's only 5, but since I am at home, I have decided to enroll in Georgia Virtual Academy, which is almost like homeschool since I'll be teaching her from home, but it's through the public school system and I don't pay for anything. The lesson plans are done for me, I just follow along. She took an assessment to see where she placed and she'll be technically in Kingergarten but taking 1st grade math and language arts. Her health, history, science, music, and art will all be Kindergarten. I'm really excited because instead of focusing on whether she's sitting flat on her butt or with one leg under her, or whether she's staring at the ceiling because she's done with her work early, I can focus on watching her learn at her own pace. Because it is through the public school system, there is a set amount of curriculum you must comlete and a set amount of hours you must spend teaching/learning, and you have to take state tests, like the CRCT, etc. But, it's the K12 curriculum, which has been a homeschool curriculum more advanced than ABEKA for years, and it is the most interesting stuff! They dress up and act out stories for history and language arts, and they do little science projects and experiments! I can't wait! But basically, let your son be 3, if he can handle the academics, let him do it. Just take their issues with him not being able to "focus" with a grain of salt. If you keep him back and he's "learning" what he already knows, he won't focus because he'll be bored. Sometimes, it's not the kids...it's the school's lack of understanding how they should behave at that age. :-)

A.....This is crazy.....I cannot imagine a 3 year old that has much attenion span...I have 4 kids..3 sons 27,22 and 20 and a daughter 4...and I assure you that your sons attention span is normal. First and foremost ,children being tested should be done in an environment conducive for testing,not one filled with distractions that most adults would not be able to stay focused in.
I would never allow my 3k to be held back,a childs mental,emotional and maturity levels change so quickly that he may be even more attentive in 2 months. I think you and your husband are looking at this situation wisely,continue to use that same wisdom and the relationship you have with your son to determine his best interest in the years to come with his school ,it will be valuable..good luck

A 3yr old that can't focus!! haha I haven't seen one of those yet unless they are watching cartoons!! I think you should go ahead and put him in K4. Boys develop a bit slower than girls but even a 3yr old girl isn't going to be able to focus much in a classroom of kids.

What you can do at him is do activites with him that require you to sit for a short period of time and then as things progress you extend that time longer and longer. Puzzles are a good one, wooden block to build things, etc.

Now if before he starts kindergarten and he is still having problems, then I'd consider keeping him in K4 for another round. But other than that, I wouldn't worry!


I have a birthday in September and so I was young in all grades as your son would be if he continues on this schedule...my parents regretting starting me this soon from about 3rd grade on... TOO late to make changes...

1st... he is too young to be identified as not being able to focus... my 4 year old was like that and when I asked about it being an issue the WONDERFUL PreK teacher said that is just being a 4 year old.. she is a straight A student now and does not have "focus" issues...

2nd.. he may be bright as ever and academically doing fine in school initially but as he gets older mental and physiological maturity will become an issue and usually affect grades...the other kids will get to do things before him, will grow before him, or have body changes he wont.
SO my advice do the holding back now when it is less emotional and much less traumatic for him...
What he is at 3 (beautiful, brilliant,& great) may not be how he feels struggling later...

Hi A.,

You can't teach focus. That is a developmental stage.

I agree with Beth. He's only three and he is NOT supposed to be focused yet. If his teacher thinks he is, then she needs to review her basic childhood development charts. Most developmental charts say that a boy will not be able to sit still and focus until he is 9, yes nine. Girls focus earlier. Most school systems do not differentiate between girls and boys anymore when they are placing them because there are so many children they are dealing with.

Don't worry. I honestly think moving him ahead will keep him from getting bored. You are the parent. He is completely your responsibility so trust your instincts. You know him better than anyone!

God bless!


A friend of mine who is a pre-school teacher of may years told me that a child's attention span correlates to his/her age in years(e.g. if your child is three he/she will have an attention span of only 3 minutes, at 4yrs.- 4 minutes..etc)I think you are right.More than likely if there are no learning problems-- your child will learn to focus as he matures. I was taught not to impede upon a child's "non- focused" time because this is important for development. My son is 8 and has to focus more now, but I still respect his "la la land time":-)

It's best that you take time to pray to see if that is best. As a parent, we want our children to go right ahead with other children, but is that the best? I have a daughter who is now in 3rd grade and is struggling terribly. Mind you, she could write at three and count and say ABC's. She too had a hard time focusing. I was so against ADD and ADHD but this year, I found out that was the problem. She has a mild case, and she probably could have benefited from staying back a grade in previous years. Now I am having to seriously thinking about holding her back, and she is now at an age to be embarrased. Keep in mind, she is excelling in her school work, but because she can not stay focused, it puts her behind. So I suggest that you take time to take into consideration what the teacher is saying, because I don't think she would target your child or many any harm, she should know what she is talking about. Put first, what is best for your child. Good luck


My son's birthday is in October as well. He started 3K in August and has done well for his age. His preschool is holding him back next year, which my husband & I didn't really agree with at first. After meeting with his teacher and the director, they assured us that having him repeat was in his best interest. See what your son's school will do to help him not be bored if you choose to have him repeat 3K. We did, and they have a whole plan for the older children in their classes. We determined that we would much rather our son be ahead and older in his classes than struggling and younger.

My twin girls had a September 1st birthday and we had the same dilemma. They are in a very competitive program at an elite private school and the school would not even consider pushing ahead any summer birthdays. I am hearing that it is now including not even any May birthdays. That really creates quite an age difference. This is not exclusive to our school at all but even rampant in the public system. I have a masters in education and taught for years. I can tell you we have never regretted giving them that extra time holding them back and with a boy child I definitely would hold back since the school has seen red flags as well. It is much easier to move up grades own the road emotionally then back down. You can always readjust at the end of next year without your child missing much of any academics at that age. Just my two cents.

A., I am a preschool teacher of Older 2's (3 by January) and Mixed 3's ( in my 20th year) at a school in Roswell.
I would pin the teacher down as to what exactly his focus issues are. Is it all during the day? During Circle/Story time? Completing his craft or project? his lunch? etc. Of course he is going to have distraction issues. that is why he is there, to learn to work through them. Some children never do and they have difficulty throughout their school years. I would want to try a chart with him for a week or so with incentive stickers that he could work toward completing a particular area (sitting through Circle, completing a craft in a timely manner,etc.).
Unless he has some underlying issues (developmental) he may be able to go forward unless there is a specific concern and the teacher owes you that. In K4 he will be expected to move Independently through and among centers that will have to be completed. I am sure that is what the teacher now is thinking.
I would rather see him work on specifics and move forward as to repeat. October is a great birthday month! They turn their next year right after school begins. If he were a summer birthday, I would be more apt to consider that. Of course, MY Older 2's class is where he would be at my school. He will be the youngest one in the public school situation he is in now. How did he get in a 3's class to begin with? He was 2 when the year started. I would look for an older 3's class and get him with his proper age group.
Cathy R

Hey A.!

In light of his age and his birthday, you will likely need to "hold him back" at some point as most schools (public and private) will require him to reach the class age by Sept 1 with very little room for negotiating. We have been wrestling with something similar with our son who has a June birthday in just trying to figure out if we want him to be the youngest in his class through school. Does you school have an alternative class for kids transitioning? I know ours does (something we looked at closely). This helps them not do the "same" thing as last year, but does buy them the extra time.

I'll be thinking of you! Good luck!


He may just be too young to "focus". My friends and I generally agree that it would be easier on the child to hold them back in the earlier grades than in later years. Right now in pre-school, the other kids aren't going to realize that he has been held back. In later years it could be embarrasing for him. I have also always heard it said that it is better for boys to graduate from high school when they are older (18 as opposed to 17). It makes a big difference in regard to maturity issues. I have girls so I can't verify it myself but, it seems to have been the right idea for many of my friends.

I have to agree with most of the other moms, 3 year olds aren't likely to focus very long on structured things, at this age children learn best thru play and immitation, a good school should know this. I used to teach a 3 year old class but it was not competitive, it's crazy to be that way with 3 year olds, let him have fun he will be in school for the rest of his child hood, he will learn! Some of the 3 year olds I taught were not ready to focus for a 15 minute circle time yet they were the most creative children in the class. I have a 3 year old daughter she is not in school yet on purpose. We are very involved in playgroups and our church so she interacts with children her age all the time none of them are in school yet and they are all smart.I wouldn't worry about about your child focusing just yet.

A. to put it bluntly this preschool teacher sounds like a nut-case. Follow your gut and move him to K4. Also keep in mind that MOST preschool teachers are ONLY required to have a high school diploma and a few training hours to become day care providers, some take it upon themselves to take a training class for preschool but generally speaking they are NOT certified teachers.

Use your mom-sense, and that is better then alot of teachers (I say that and I am a certified teacher--10 years experience).

So mom you have it right put your baby in K4. Good luck. SMILE!

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