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Program lets younger children transitional into kindergarten

09.10.2012 | Daily Republic | Heather Ah San

FAIRFIELD — A group of squirming 4-year-olds sat cross-legged on the floor peering around their new classroom as teacher Barbra Rimmer called for their attention.

She told them when it comes to learning, “the teacher does part of it, but you do part of it, too.”

This group of children was getting their first taste of school.

While many children have started kindergarten at age 4 or older, this year children born after Nov. 1 won’t get to start school yet.

Under new California state law, by 2014 children born after Sept. 1 are not eligible to enroll in kindergarten. The cutoff date used to be Dec. 1.

California schools are easing parents and children into the new law by moving the cutoff date back one month each year until 2014. This year, November and December babies won’t be eligible for kindergarten.

The state of California is one of four states to have a kindergarten cutoff date after Sept. 1.

The argument is that most 4-year-olds born later in the year are not as developmentally ready as their peers born in January, for example.

This change was the result of Senate Bill 1381 passed in 2010.

For parents who don’t want their 4-year-olds in preschool any longer but miss the new birthday cutoff, the Fairfield-Suisun School District has a new option: transitional kindergarten.

Transitional kindergarten was created as a solution to the new legislation and provides late birthday students with a year of readiness education before kindergarten.

This year three classes were started at Fairview Elementary School and Suisun Elementary School. Each class is limited to 20 children.

Children from anywhere in the district born after Nov. 1 are eligible to enroll. Next year the cutoff will be moved to Oct. 1.

Assistant Superintendent Kris Corey said that transitional kindergarten will be less focused on rigorous standards and more on developmental skills and learning.

Fairview Elementary Principal Dave Marianno said there is a huge difference between children with late birthdays and early ones. The 10 months between a January birthday and an October birthday, he said, is a significant portion of their life.

“November boys can’t compete with April girls,” he said. “In the long run it will be a great thing . . . socially, emotionally and academically.”

Emily Haskell teaches a half day of transitional kindergarten class at Fairview Elementary.

Corey said the district is looking into locations for next year’s classes to accommodate a growing class size.

For questions about transitional kindergarten, call the Elementary Education office at 399-5041.

Reach Heather Ah San at 427-6977 or hahsan@dailyrepublic.net. Follow her on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/HeatherMalia.

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