Kindergarten overhaul imminent

10.26.2011 | Patch | Miriam Finder

Starting with the 2012-2013 school year, Burlingame students turning five between Nov. 1 and Dec. 2 must wait a year before entering kindergarten and instead have the option of participating in the Burlingame Elementary School District’s first-ever transitional kindergarten class.

“We want to provide our young fives the gift of time,” said Asst. Superintendent Jud Kempson. “We want to provide students who may not have had the opportunity of preschool a year to become school ready.”

The transitional kindergarten program is mandated by State Senate Bill 1381, which requires children turn five-years-old previous to Nov. 1 for the 2012-2013 school year, Oct. 1 for the 2013-2014 school year and eventually Sept. 1 for the 2014-2015 school year. While only children with birthdays between Nov. 1 and Dec. 2 will have only the option of transitional kindergarten in the 2012-2013 school year, children with birthdays beginning Sept. 1 through Oct. 31 can opt into the transitional program that year, as well.

The bill gives younger students more time for social, emotional and academic development before entering traditional kindergarten, Kempson said.

“It’s an opportunity to go slow to go fast,” said Superintendent Maggie MacIsaac.

The Board of Trustees approved staff recommendation for classes to commence at Washington and Lincoln elementary schools, with students returning to their home schools for traditional kindergarten. Each school would hold one to two classes. Classes would run for a half-day.

Asst. Superintendent Robert Clark said the projected cost for start up would be $95,000 per classroom, with $77,465 going towards the teacher. However, the district does receive state funding for the program.

In the coming months, outreach to parents, curriculum, scheduling and capacity issues at the school will be addressed, especially as enrollment numbers come in.

The state-mandated changes to kindergarten pushed the trustees to discuss an overhaul of the kindergarten program as a whole.

The board members and school principals discussed reducing the class size to 22.44 students per teacher, making kindergarten full day and getting rid of early bird and late bird programs.

“I had the opportunity to meet with all the kindergarten teachers,” said Washington Principal Julie Eastman. “Right off the bat they were saying they wanted to see class sizes reduced, extended days and no early bird late bid so we can finally get some lessons taught all the way through.”

With a full day program, teachers can take their time with lessons, and smaller class sizes allow them more time with each student. Trustees acknowledged issues of space and perhaps hiring more teachers, and plan to further discuss and vote on the issue at their next meeting, currently scheduled for Nov. 8.

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