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Program prepares students for kindergarten

08.30.2013 | Moorpark Acorn | Stephanie Sumell

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Kindergarten isn’t just finger painting, snack time and building sand castles. Students have to know how to read, write and understand math.

“There’s so much more to learn,” said Donna Welch, the Moorpark Unified School District’s director of elementary education and special projects. “As the state standards become more rigorous, more parents are looking to give their child that extra year to adjust.”

That’s why many parents opt to enroll their children in transitional kindergarten. The optional program offers children a developmentally appropriate curriculum aligned with kindergarten standards so they have the academic, social and emotional skills needed to successfully transition into a traditional kindergarten classroom.

MUSD’s transitional kindergarten program has grown quickly since it began in 2011.

Eighty-one students enrolled this year, compared to 68 students enrolled last year and 46 the year before.

One of the reasons for the program’s growth is that the state has expanded the age bracket for eligibility for the program.

The transitional kindergarten program is available to students turning 5 between Oct. 1 and Dec. 2 this year whereas it was only available to students born between Nov. 1 and Dec. 2 last year.

Children already 5 by Oct. 1 may take part in transitional kindergarten, however. This change is a result of the Kindergarten Readiness Act of 2010. The law changed the kindergarten entry date to allow students to enter the grade when they are older and a little more mature.

The district offers a transitional kindergarten class at Arroyo West Active Learning Academy, Campus Canyon College Preparatory Academy, Mountain Meadows 21st Century Learning Academy and Walnut Canyon Performing Arts and Technology School. Each class has about 20 students.

“We’ve added another school site each year,” Welch said. “This year is the first year Walnut Canyon has offered a transitional kindergarten class.”

Welch said the spike in enrollment is “wonderful.”

“ The state standards say, ‘When you’re 5, you’ll be able to do this, this and this,’” Welch said. “But children don’t learn in little packages like that. Some need more time to grasp certain concepts.”

To do that, students in transitional kindergarten participate in more hands-on activities than they might in a traditional kindergarten classroom, Welch said.

“They get to spend more time doing things like using cubes and counting. Things they might not have as much time to do in kindergarten. . . . it’s a good thing,” she said.

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