Cupertino, Sunnyvale school district make plans for transitional kindergarten program.

05.03.2012 | San Jose Mercury News | Matt Wilson

Local school districts are forging ahead with plans to introduce a new school program for soon-to-be kindergartners. With budget unrest continuing in Sacramento, districts are left to proceed on their own to implement the new transitional kindergarten program for children who otherwise would not be quite old enough to start school.

The Kindergarten Readiness Act of 2010 is being phased in over the next few years, with the transitional program leading to a two-year modified kindergarten program that is developmentally and age-appropriate, according to the California Department of Education.

Children will need to be 5 years old by Sept. 1 in order to be enrolled in school by the 2014-15 school year.

The Sunnyvale School District has been planning for transitional kindergarten since last fall.

“We were gearing up, making solid plans to move this forward then the governor came up with his proposal to eliminate the funding, so we kind of decided to wait and see what happened,” Sunnyvale School District superintendent Ben Picard said.

Earlier this year Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed budget for the 2012-13 school year eliminated funding for the new statewide program, leaving some school districts to hold off on taking enrollment until a clearer budget picture emerged.

However, in March and April both houses of the California state Legislature rejected Brown’s proposal to cut the per-student funding to offer a transitional kindergarten program.

Cupertino Union School District’s program was in limbo until recently. The district is planning to take registration May 14-18 at the district office.

When Cupertino Union’s model gets going, it will mirror the structure of the district’s kindergarten program while acting as a bridge from preschool to public school. The district will have satellite classes at Regnart and John Muir elementary schools, according to district officials.

All TK programs will have teachers with kindergarten credentials. Under the new law, parents and guardians would not be required to enroll children who are of age in transitional kindergarten or kindergarten.

The Sunnyvale School District is allowing parents to register through the summer, with the stipulation that the program could be dropped at any time. In this district, TK students will be taught with other kindergarten students at all eight school sites.

Picard said the district will present its TK plan to its board of trustees in June.

The Santa Clara Unified School District is also going ahead with TK plans. The district, which includes some Sunnyvale students, is clustering the TK students with kindergarten students in the morning for a half-day, regardless of the outcome of the governor’s budget.

Picard said there are still underlying concerns that funding will not come through.

—The governor is going to issue his May revision to the budget,” he added. “Who knows what will happen through the summer as the state grapples with April revenues being down from their original projections?

“It’s an interesting thing to me, when all school districts are down nearly 20 percent in state funding that at this time the state is opting to offer new, expanded programs. It seems counter to any logic, but I think it’s a good program.”

Competition between ADA-funded preschools and the new TK program is another issue.

“There is concern that by opening transitional kindergarten too fast, we will suck too many kids out of our preschools and make it not financially viable, which would backfire in our community and the goal this legislation is trying to reach,” said Mary Kay Going, Santa Clara Unified’s director of curriculum and instruction.

A child is eligible for transitional kindergarten if his or her fifth birthday is between Nov. 2 and Dec. 2 for the 2012-13 school year, Oct. 2 and Dec. 2 for the 2013-14 school year, or Sept. 2 and Dec. 2 for the 2014-15 school year and each school year thereafter.

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