Kids get a jump start on school with transitional kindergarten

04.28.2012 | The Press Tribune | Sena Christian

Oakhills Elementary School parent Jennifer Theuriet said transitional kindergarten was the right choice for her October baby.

"I'm sure my daughter would have done well in kindergarten but I'm happy we made the choice to give her the extra year to grow both academically and socially," Theuriet said.

Fellow parent Suzanne Schroeder's son was also born in October. She and her husband debated whether to enroll him in regular kindergarten or hold him back a year. He was ready academically but needed help with his social and time-management skills.

They put him in transitional kindergarten and he's thriving, Schroeder said.

Under the Kindergarten Readiness Act passed in 2010, California has mandated that public school districts offer transitional kindergarten beginning with the 2012-13 year. Local districts plan to do so despite Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal to eliminate state funding for the program. Without funding, these programs may not be offered.

Roseville City School District, Eureka Union School District and Dry Creek Joint Elementary School District already had transitional kindergarten programs in place and are now accepting students for next year, including inter-district transfers.

Changes in cut-off date

The new law states a child must be 5 years old by Nov. 1, 2012 - instead of the previous Dec. 2 date - to enter regular kindergarten. For 2013, that date moves up to Oct. 1. For 2014 and thereafter, the cut-off is Sept. 1.

Under the law, a child is eligible for transitional kindergarten if he turns 5 years old between Nov. 2 and Dec. 2, 2012.

Roseville City School District is accepting children who will be 5 years old on July 1 through Dec. 2. The district began offering two transitional kindergarten classes this school year with 48 students total.

"The parents are loving it," said Ann Avelar, educational services administrative assistant.

Transitional kindergarten is part of a two-year program. Parents are required to enroll their child in a regular kindergarten class for the second academic year. Roseville City School District Director of Educational Services Rebecca Toto said early education emphasizes social, emotional and motor skill development.

"Transitional kindergarten really focuses a lot on the social development of students," she said. "The academic piece becomes the focus in kindergarten."

Students more prepared

Roseville City School District will have at least three transitional kindergarten classes for 2012-13 and will form additional classes as needed. Vencil Brown Elementary School and Spanger Elementary School currently offer the program. The district will determine by May which campuses will have the class next year based on demand.

Toto said the program helps regular kindergarten teachers who don't have to spend as much time with socialization - things like sitting in a circle and playing nicely - allowing extra time to focus on meeting rigorous state standards for kindergarten.

Toto recently attended a conference and met a representative from another district that started a transitional kindergarten program five years ago. About 90 percent of those kids, now in third grade, are reading at a third-grade level.

"Those are outstanding results," Toto said.

Caitlin Brown teaches transitional kindergarten at Oakhills Elementary School, which is part of the Eureka Union School District. During a typical day, students visit the library and computer lab, and have music, physical education and assemblies. They work on letters, sounds, sight words and numbers, Brown said. They use fine motor skills for writing, cutting, drawing and painting. They learn teamwork by building with blocks and trains, and playing in the play house.

"The kindergarten teachers have told us that our students have been very prepared academically and socially when entering kindergarten," Brown said. "They have a lot more confidence and are helpful to students who are new to our school."

Eureka Union School District hopes for the 2012-13 year to offer a transitional kindergarten class at each K-3 campus, with a class size of no more than 20, said Kristie Ellison, interim director of special education and Oakhills principal.

The district started what's called a developmental kindergarten program in 2010 and has three of these classes. These will become transitional kindergarten in the fall. They also have a tuition-based transitional development kindergarten class at Oakhills that won't be offered next year.

Dry Creek Joint Elementary School District started its transitional kindergarten program in the fall and offers three classes. The district plans to have at least three more this year but that's based on parental interest.

"There's been some talk at the state level if they're going to continue it," said Superintendent Mark Geyer. "We think it's a critical program so we're planning on continuing it."

Sena Christian can be reached at senac@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at SenaC_RsvPT.

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Eligibility requirements:

  • For regular kindergarten, child must be 5 years old by Nov. 1, 2012
  • For transitional kindergarten, child must turn 5 years old between Nov. 2 and Dec. 2, 2012. Specific requirements may vary by district.
  • To register, parents need a completed packet with photo ID of parents/guardians, child's official legal birth certificate, proof of residency, current immunization record.

 Transitional kindergarten

  • For the Dry Creek Unified School District, visit www.drycreek.k12.ca.us or call (916) 770-8800
  • For the Eureka Union School District, visit www.eureka-usd.k12.ca.us or call (916) 791-4939
  • For the Roseville City School District, visit www.rcsdk8.org or call (916) 771-1600

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