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Local kindergartens prepare for age transition

08.07.2012 | Imperial Valley Press Online | Julio Morales

Harding Elementary School teacher Evelyn Rubalcava said she is looking forward to the coming school year. In a departure of sorts from her past 18 years as a kindergarten teacher, Rubalcava will now be the campus’ transitional kindergarten teacher.

“It’s going to be a great program,” she said, referring to transitional kindergarten. “It’s going to help students move on through kindergarten and the upper grades.”

As a result of the Kindergarten Readiness Act of 2010, school districts statewide have changed their kindergarten entry date so that children enter school at age 5. The 2012-2013 school year is the first year of the law’s implementation. Students whose fifth birthday falls between Nov. 2 and Dec. 2 will be eligible to enroll in transitional kindergarten this year.

The implementation of the act will continue over the next two school years, with students whose fifth birthday falls between Oct. 2 and Dec. 2 becoming eligible for transitional kindergarten in the 2013-2014 school year.

The following year students whose fifth birthday falls between Sept. 2 and Dec. 2, the final cutoff date, will be eligible.  

Having taken part in a committee tasked with planning and implementing the transitional kindergarten classes, Rubalcava said she started to warm up to the idea of possibly teaching one of the classes.

“The more we met and talked about it, the more I thought maybe this was something I would like to do,” she said.

Within the El Centro Elementary School District, transitional classes will be housed at Harding and Hedrick elementary schools and will serve the whole district, with one designated classroom at each site.  

The transitional program is a two-year program that stipulates a transitional year will be followed by a second year of traditional kindergarten.

However, if a transitional kindergarten student shows academic progress, he or she can be moved into the traditional class once they reach 5 years old, said Elementary School District Assistant Superintendent Renato Montaño,

The district is expecting to have five transitional classes in place by the time the act is fully implemented, he said.

While there were some costs associated with new instructional materials, the district did not incur any “major” expenses from the shift, Montaño said.

The new law is expected to affect some 40,000 kindergarten students statewide this school year, and 125,000 by the final year of its implementation, said Deborah King, with Preschool California, a nonprofit education advocacy organization.

The later kindergarten start date has been something the California Kindergarten Association has spent the past couple of decades advocating for, said CKA president Ada Hand.

Calling the law’s implementation a “big step forward,” Hand said that with the current emphasis on meeting academic standards, the kindergarten curriculum would often leave the younger students at a disadvantage.

“It was obvious to our (organization’s) members that some young kids were having a hard time adjusting,” she said.

The transitional classroom setting will allow teachers the opportunity to spend more time to engage students in more creative activities that promote social-emotional development, she said.

The transitional classes are also expected to benefit English language learners, since it allows extra time to acquire the English language prior to being exposed to the traditional curriculum, Hand said.

Declining enrollment means that transitional kindergartners at Seeley School will be housed in a combination class with traditional kindergarten students, said Seeley Union School District Superintendent Ruben Castro.

At present, only two students have enrolled in the transitional class, but that number may rise slightly as the beginning of the school year nears, he said. 

Eight students had enrolled in the Heber School District’s transitional class as of Tuesday, said Superintendent Jaime Silva.

The school had to slightly modify its curriculum to make it more age-appropriate and incorporate lots of phonetic learning activities, he said.

Also, the class will utilize dramatic play areas where role playing can help develop language and social-emotional skills, he said. At their tender age, getting children to express themselves and to learn to work with one another and share is crucial, he said.

Student assessments will also determine the shape and form of the transitional kindergarten class.

“It’s new and we’ll be exploring how we want it to look,” Silva said. 

Staff writer, copy editor Julio Morales can be reached at 760-335-4665 or at jmorales@ivpressonline.com

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