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Parents Prepare for New Kindergarten Guidelines

01.17.2012 | Patch | Kameela Din

A small but intent group of nine parents followed Cabrillo Unified School District Assistant Superintendent Elizabeth Schuck and Farallone View Elementary School
Site Coordinator Gwendolyn Rehling around school grounds to peer in on
kindergarten classes as part of a tour for incoming parents last week.

As a variation on the traditional pre-kindergarten tour, this one
came with an informational session for parents of children born late in
the year who may opt to put their younger children in the district’s new
transitional kindergarten program. The sessions are part of a statewide
effort to better prepare incoming kindergartners who would be the
youngest in their class for school environments.

Schuck, who is also the principal at Farallone View, explained to
parents that California is currently one of only four states that allows
children turning five years old as late as December to enroll in
kindergarten that year. In compliance with the new Kindergarten Readiness Act
passed in 2010, that date will shift up slowly year by year so that
children must turn five by November 1 to enroll in kindergarten this
fall, by October 1 for fall 2013 enrollment, and eventually by September
1 for fall 2014 enrollment.

New guidelines will also allow parents the choice of enrolling their
children in a two-year Transitional Kindergarten program, where, rather
than going straight into a traditional one-year kindergarten class,
children will take part in a two-year program that aims to bridge the
social and academic gaps that younger children sometimes face when first
attending school.

Schuck said that even children who have been exposed to pre-school
settings may not yet have the full skillset necessary to succeed in
today’s kindergarten classrooms. While some preschools stress social and
academic development, many only focus on one aspect of learning, she
said.

“This will be this first time many of these kids will have a formal focus on both social and academic skills,” she said.

Transitional Kindergarten classes will put emphasis on creating
skills that will be building blocks to success in a child’s entire
school career, according to Schuck. After citing an example of the
disconnect between what parents and teachers often state are the most
important skills for kindergartners, she quoted a county report that
said that most parents thought it was crucial that their children be
able to write their names and learn numbers in kindergarten — while most
teachers said that it was vital that a child be able to behave and
interact appropriately with peers.

Rehling said that one way transitional classes will promote
appropriate interaction is by using structured play, such as with play
kitchen and house sets, and with group activities.

“We want to focus their energies on being able to sit in a group and work together,” she said.

Academic skills will also be pushed in fun, interactive ways to help
students get to the level of newer, more rigorous standards for
kindergarten, according to Schuck.

“We really want kids to have these developmental opportunities
because it will benefit them in the long run,” Schuck said, adding that
helping children adapt to daily school routines and eventually become
role models for younger peers is another important goal of the program.

Jared Kohler, whose four-year old son will be attending the inaugural
Transitional Kindergarten program at Farallone View this fall, said
that the tour was reassuring.

“It was great seeing the kids rotating to different activities and practicing different skills,” he said.

The second of three tours for incoming parents, last week’s saw many
questions, as well as praise from parents who currently have older
children at Farallone View. Rehling said that the first two tours have
been successful not only because of strong parent turnouts, but also
because of the school’s reputation for parent involvement.

“It’s so wonderful to see parents so engaged,” she said. “We work
hard to match the needs of the students with the classrooms we put them
in and I think parents appreciate that.”

In addition to Farallone View, Hatch, El Granada and Kings Mountain elementary schools will all be hosting kindergarten tours in coming weeks.

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