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New program helps youngest students transition

09.07.2011 | The Orange County Register | Stefani Peterson

PLACENTIA – Dressed in his best “first day of school” outfit, Samuel Tao entered his classroom at Van Buren Elementary for the first time.

He hung up his blue Capri Sun backpack, sat on his mom’s lap as he stamped his handprint and wrote his name. As parents snapped photos and lingered before saying their final goodbyes, Veronica Gomez rang the whimsical chimes and the first day of school officially began.

School started Tuesday for thousands of students across the Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District.

For some students, like Samuel, it was their first day of Preppy K, a transitional kindergarten program created by the Placentia-Yorba Linda district to support the development and achievement of pre-kindergarten-aged children.

Currently, students must turn 5 years old on or before Dec. 2 in order to enroll in kindergarten.

In Preppy K, students born in late summer or fall are given the opportunity to participate in a two-year kindergarten program. The classes are taught by fully credentialed kindergarten teachers. The program is currently geared toward children who turn 5 after Sept. 2, but before the Dec. 2 deadline.

The first year of the program provides developmental curriculum and the second year is a traditional kindergarten curriculum, said Candy Plahy, assistant superintendent of education.

“It’s not that younger children aren’t smart enough, but the rigger of entering school can be a lot for younger learners,” said Dorie Staack, director of categorical programs for elementary education. “Sometimes it is just the social, emotional gift of time.”

Originally, only three schools in the district were going to administer the Preppy K program, but after high demand over the summer, there are now nine programs at seven schools. Besides Van Buren, the program is also offered at Brookhaven, Rio Vista, Travis Ranch, Fairmont, Melrose and Topaz elementary schools.

“It is the right thing to do,” Staack said. “It will help them with their access to academics later.”

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