MENIFEE: Students in transitional kindergarten program celebrate turning 5
12.09.2012 | San Diego Union-Tribune | Amy Bentley
It was all about the No. 5 for a class of 5-year-old students in the transitional kindergarten program at Callie Kirkpatrick Elementary School in Menifee who enjoyed a collective birthday party at school last week.
Most of the students in the class tuned 5 during the month of November, so their teacher, Jody Sanchez, and some parents threw the kids a big party, complete with balloons, sweet treats, goodie bags and games. Sanchez read the children a book called, “It’s Hard to be Five,” and the students made paper bag puppets.
“They know five. At the end of the year they’ll be able to count to 30,” Sanchez said. “We’re learning groups of five and the things that make five, like two and threes.”
As Sanchez’s students played games such as beanbag toss, she said they were also learning about sportsmanship, taking turns and “what happens when you don’t win.”
Also joining the fun was Menifee Union School District board member Robert O’Donnell, who periodically volunteers in a Menifee classroom. At the party, held Wednesday, O’Donnell helped some children play games.
“This is what it’s all about,” O’Donnell said. “The kids are at different levels and it’s fun to work with them and see what they’ve learned. This is where the rubber meets the road.”
Student Dade Jarvis enjoyed the game and told O’Donnell, “You go first and I go second.”
Parent Eris Hereford, whose 5-year-old daughter, Isabella, is in Sanchez’s class, said she’s glad her daughter is in the transitional kindergarten program before entering kindergarten, where the standards for learning are much harder than they used to be.
“It gives them time to grow. It gives them a better chance,” said Hereford, who has two older children, ages 9 and 11, with November birthdays. Hereford said she enrolled both of her older kids in kindergarten when they were 5 but almost 6, as opposed to being 4 and almost 5. “It’s better to be the oldest than the youngest,” she said.
Renee Hughes, another parent, said her daughter Lexi loves her transitional kindergarten class but would have been ready for full kindergarten this year. Hughes said she’s on the fence about the change in California law that is moving up the full kindergarten cutoff date from the old date of Dec. 2 over a three-year period.
Transitional kindergarten uses a modified kindergarten curriculum that is age- and developmentally appropriate. For the 2012-13 school year, a child can enter kindergarten if he or she turns 5 by Nov. 1. Next year, the birthday cutoff date is Oct. 1, and it’s Sept. 1 for 2014-15 and every year after that, according to California’s Kindergarten Readiness Act of 2010.
Parents of 4-year-olds with fall birthdays who will miss these new deadlines are offered the chance for their children to attend an optional transitional kindergarten program the year before they start kindergarten. In the Menifee district, the program is available at Callie Kirkpatrick and Chester Morrison elementary schools.
Sanchez previously taught kindergarten for 27 years and said the 4-year-olds were often struggling and not mature enough, with some still crying in class. Today, kindergartners have to be able to write simple sentences and read by the end of the school year. Naps are no longer part of the day, she said.
“This program gives them the gift of time,” Sanchez said.