Between classes: Transitional kindergarten hailed as success

01.22.2013 | | Keith Reid

LODI – At one station, Lawrence Elementary School teacher Kim Day helps 5-year-old Rya Fletcher recite words and sounds that come from the letter “e.”

Across the classroom, teacher Kim McClelland helps Jack Meyers, 5, on an art project that incorporates the use of the color purple.

This is transitional kindergarten in the Lodi Unified School District, and by all accounts, the course that is one-notch-above-preschool-but-not-quite-kindergarten is a booming success after the first half of its inaugural year.

“We won’t really know how successful this has been until next year when these kids are in kindergarten and the kindergarten teachers can tell us how much more prepared they are (than those who were not in transitional kindergarten),” Lawrence Elementary Principal Carlos Vilafana said.

McClelland and Day said, however, that their classes are moving along at a level that exceeded their expectations coming in. The goals were simple: getting the “young 5-year-olds” to write their name, know some basic math, and gain the social skills and classroom etiquette that will allow kindergarten teachers to focus their attention on academics instead of behavior training.

“Most of our kids are writing their names already and know all the letters and their sounds,” Day said. “That’s huge.”

The only challenge has been for McClelland and Day – both trained kindergarten teachers – to remember to slow down.

“We aren’t getting them ready for first grade. Sometimes you forget that,” Day said.

Transitional kindergarten is a program that became necessary statewide when California decided to change the enrollment dates for children who enter kindergarten. What used to be a Dec. 1 deadline to turn 5 for kindergartners is moving to September 1 over a three-year period.

This year, all students in two Lodi Unified programs – one at Lawrence Elementary and one at Podesta Ranch Elementary in Stockton – turned 5 in November.

In 2013-14, children who turn 5 in October and November will be eligible, and the district is doubling up space, Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Education Catherine Pennington said.

“We had space for 40 (pupils), and next year we will have space for 80,” Pennington said.

The district will add classrooms at Lakewood Elementary School in Lodi and Mosher Elementary School in north Stockton. Pennington said those locations were chosen because they have the required access to playgrounds and in-class restrooms. They are also on the opposite ends of town as their Lawrence and Podesta Ranch counterparts, Pennington said.

Parents with children who turn 5 in October or November 2013 are encouraged to visit their neighborhood school for enrollment information.

Contact reporter Keith Reid at (209) 546-8257 Visit his blog at

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