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New Opal Cliffs School in Capitola includes transitional kindergarten

08.23.2012 | Santa Cruz Sentinel | Shanna McCord

CAPITOLA – The final bits of paint, flooring and electrical wiring should be finished Saturday at Opal Cliffs School, the new preschool campus for Soquel Union Elmentary School District, in time for teachers to prep classrooms for the first day of school Wednesday.

Crews from Pencon Construction set a blistering pace to get the $2.3 million project – two buildings of 4,000 and 3,000 feet and two outdoor play areas – up in four months.

The school, adjacent to Jade Street Park and the Capitola Community Center, will primarily serve preschool children through a nonprofit called Campus Kids Connection.

In addition to preschoolers, the Opal Cliffs campus will be shared with students in transitional kindergarten.

The district is moving its transitional kindergarten program from Santa Cruz Gardens Elementary School, where it has been run for two years, to Opal Cliffs.

Superintendent Henry Castaniada expects 28 children who turn 5 in November or December to participate in the transitional kindergarten class this year.

“Kinder is no longer what it used to be. It’s an academic program,” Castaniada said. “You have got to be ready to go to school. It’s an organized day.”

Transitional kindergarten offers children with birthdays between September and December a developmentally appropriate curriculum aligned with kindergarten standards. Transitional kindergarten was created by a new state law, drafted by Sen. Joe Simitian in 2010, called the Kindergarten Readiness Act.

The law changes the kindergarten entry date from Dec. 2 to Sept. 1 so that children enter kindergarten at age 5 better prepared for the demands of school.

Pajaro Valley Unified School District, the county’s largest district, will begin transitional kindergarten classes on Oct. 15 at four campuses.

Kathy Lathrop, the district’s director of early childhood education, said at least 70 children have signed up so far. They could have more than 100, she said.

Landmark, Mintie White and Mar Vista elementary schools will offer the transitional classes. The other site has not been determined, she said.

Lathrop said the creation of transitional kindergarten should reduce the number of kids being held back a grade or referred to special education programs because they’re not quite ready for school and unable to keep up with their peers.

“Children have a wide range of experiences and opportunities in their early years, especially in terms of school readiness,” she said. “Even in affluent areas, kids in that fall age group are young and struggling.”

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