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Learning to transition

08.14.2012 | Santa Maria Times | Gina Potthoff

All the students in Robin Patchett’s classroom at Mary Buren Elementary recited days of the week, learned teacher rules and sang the “Good Morning” song on the first day of school Monday morning.

The only visible difference between the kindergartners and the “transitional kindergartners” was the color of their name tags.

Green meant students would be picked up by parents after school. Red meant riding the bus, and white with dots represented the youngest students whose parents already know their children will be returning to kindergarten next year.

Nine of Patchett’s 22 students are in the transitional kindergarten program, which was created this year so that Guadalupe Union and other California school districts can adhere to the Kindergarten Readiness Act of 2010.  

The law advances the kindergarten enrollment cutoff date for a child’s birth date from Dec. 2 to Sept. 1, and schools are phasing the change in one month at a time over three years beginning this fall.

Students in Patchett’s class who turn 5 after Nov. 1 this year are enrolled in the prelude to kindergarten, where they will be taught separately and then enroll in regular kindergarten the following year.

 “Sometimes you really can’t tell” the difference, Patchett said Monday after guiding students through a short lesson on a minimum day of school. “It’s just going to take time and exposure.”

Typically, transitional students will arrive at 8:20 a.m. and kindergartners at 10 a.m. The two groups will overlap about two hours and will have separate lessons.

The transitional title doesn’t necessarily mean students are more likely to be gently chided “criss-cross applesauce” — Patchett’s instruction for kids to sit with their legs crossed.

She said the program will allow the youngest students to hone their social and motor skills, major focuses of the transitional curriculum Patchett has been learning and researching.

“They don’t have to master it,” she said. “They just need more time. Because our (state) standards are so high … sometimes the kids can’t keep up. They’ll all benefit.”

Guadalupe’s new program won’t cost the district extra money this year, said Superintendent Ed Cora.

In fact, he said, the program creates smaller class sizes because the students in transitional kindergarten would have been in the kindergarten class before the change; now they get some of the teacher’s time separately from the full kindergarten kids.

“I’ll be spending a lot of time down here,” Cora said of Patchett’s classroom, which is just a couple doors down from his office. “I think we’ve got the best person.”

Patchett, who volunteered to teach both groups, will have more time to work with each student.

She’s already planning to unveil some toys she wouldn’t have dreamed of

letting students in a class of 30 use, including a table that has a sandbox underneath its top.

“Just having a smaller number of kids …” Patchett said after classes ended Monday. “I think we’re all excited  because it’ll help the really young child walking in the door.”

Area school districts resume classes this week and next:

  • Today: Santa Maria-Bonita and Santa Maria Joint Union High School districts
  • Wednesday: Orcutt Academy
  • Thursday: Lucia MarUnified
  • Tuesday, Aug. 21:Lakeview and Orcutt Junior High seventh-graders
  • Wednesday, Aug. 22: Lakeview and Orcutt Junior High eighth-graders, Orcutt Union, Orcutt Academy K-8, Lompoc Unified

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