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San Mateo, Foster City Schools Work to Prepare Transkindergarten

01.22.2012 | Patch | Austin Walsh

Administrators in the San Mateo-Foster City School District
are developing a transkindergarten program, but cloudy projections
surrounding the state budget have dampened some of the excitement for
its potential unveiling next year.

Assistant Superintendent
Molly Barton presented to the district staff, fellow administrators and
school board members Thursday night an overview of the work done to
prepare the program designed to educate future students transitioning
from preschool into kindergarten.

And though a committee
comprised of parents, teachers and administrators plan to continue their
work, Barton said early word from the state legislature regarding
funding for transitional programs may be more at risk now than was
initially expected, said Barton.

“Things that we were looking forward to, we are now slowing down doing,” said Barton.

The
transkindergarten program is designed to fill the void left for some
young students who will no longer be eligible for enrollment in a
traditional kindergarten program under the enactment of a new state law
that changes the required birth date for admissions.

The effect
of SB-1381, sponsored by Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto),
progressively moves the birth date determining kindergarten eligibility
forward over the course of the coming three years.

Currently,
children who turn 5 years old by Dec. 2 may enroll in kindergarten.
Under the new law that goes into effect next year, children must turn 5
by November 1 to be enrolled, then October 1 the following year, and
September 1 by the year 2014 and onward.

The intention of the
law is to ensure children are mature and prepared enough to handle the
rigors of becoming a kindergarten student, said Barton.

As part
of the compromise to get the law passed, legislators agreed that the
state would fund a transkindergarten program in public schools that
would serve children who missed the new enrollment date for the
traditional program, said Barton.

But as the state faces a
budget deficit near $10 billion, early indications from Sacramento are
that Governor Jerry Brown is contemplating axing all proposed funding
for the transkindergarten programs.

Such action could save the
state more than $223 million in the coming year, and up to $672 by full
implementation at the 2014-15 school year.

And as the
uncertainty of finance swirls, the San Mateo-Foster City School District
must continue moving forward with preparing the transkindergarten
program, because Simitian’s kindergarten readiness law will be enacted
regardless of how much funding the state legislature provides.

But
ultimately, the decision whether to implement the transkindergarten
program falls under the jurisdiction of the local school district, as no
state mandate for such action exists.

Barton said that she
would like to see the district move forward with developing and
considering to establish the program next year, regardless of the
outcome of state budget negotiations.

“We believe pretty strongly this is what is good for kids, and we want to implement it locally,” she said.

Barton said she expects that about 100 students may be enrolled in the program next year, if it is established.

The
San Mateo County of Education may help the school district track down
available grant funding that could be used for the transkindergarten
program, as well as sponsor professional development days for teachers,
said Barton.

District trustee Lory Lorimer Lawson said that she
believed in the benefits of the transitional program, as it allowed an
opportunity for children to become familiar with a classroom environment
but also provided them time to mature before becoming students.

She said that she appreciated the program “giving kids the gift of time to really make them connect with the learning process.”

Carole
Delgado, a kindergarten teacher at Audubon Elementary School,
encouraged the district board to move forward with the work toward
implementing the program next year.

She also warned the board to not fall victim to the “scare tactics” generated by the state legislature regarding the budget.

The
board took no action at its meeting Thursday, and Barton will return
during future meetings to provide more updates on the status of the
program’s development.

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