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New Vallejo pre-kindergarten classes begin registering students

04.03.2012 | Vallejo Times-Herald | Lanz Christian Bañes

Despite the often unpredictable politics of Sacramento, Vallejo educators are pushing forward to implement a second kindergarten year.

Indeed, the Vallejo City Unified School District has already registered children for the planned “transitional kindergarten,” which the Vallejo school board approved last month, said Mary Dybdahl, director of elementary curriculum instruction and student support services.

“It’s very exciting,” said Dybdahl, who helped the school board navigate the state rules.

Transitional kindergarten, or “TK” as it’s often abbreviated, was part of a state law last year requiring districts to implement a second year of kindergarten, which would focus on social and emotional development rather than preparing children in academics.

Transitional kindergarten is the first year of a two-year kindergarten program, with students then moving to kindergarten, then first grade.

The requirement to have the new grade was tied into the kindergarten enrollment cut-off date, which would successively be moved back a month every year from Dec. 1 until the birthday cut-off date was Sept. 1. That means that 5 year olds born after Sept. 1 — that is, they would spend much of the first kindergarten semester as 4 year olds — would be ineligible for kindergarten, but could go into transitional kindergarten.

“Social and emotional development is heavily weighted,” Dybdahl noted.

However, Gov. Jerry Brown proposed the elimination of transitional kindergarten in his January budget — but left intact the changes in the cut-off date. Districts across the state had to weigh the benefits versus the costs of implementing transtional kindergarten without the state support.

Among the concerns would be that some children who would have been eligible for kindergarten would now be excluded from school if districts did not implement the program. Fewer children in school would mean less money for districts, which the state funds through attendance numbers.

But if implemented, transitional kindergarten would essentially pay for itself, leading to the Vallejo school board’s approval last month. Coincidentally, an Assembly subcommittee also rejected Brown’s proposal, restoring the original mandate for transitional kindergarten — for now.

“I hope we can move forward,” Dybdahl said.

Dybdahl said the district wouldn’t necessarily be adding extra classes, as some of the existing kindergarten classes would be converted to transitional kindergarten.

Depending on the number of children who enroll, the district could have anywhere between four and eight transitional kindergarten classes, Dybdahl said. It’s still unclear where those classes will be established, and the district is working on identifying people to teach transitional kindergarten, Dybdahl said.

As the implementation rolls out, Dybdahl has been hoping to reach out to parents and let them know of transitional kindergarten and has set up three information sessions in April and one in May. For more information, call Dybdahl at (707) 556-8921 ext. 50277.

Contact staff writer Lanz Christian Bañes at (707) 553-6833 or lbanes@timesheraldonline.com.

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