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School district to pilot pre-kindergarten year

10.24.2011 | Patch | Avni Nijhawan

A potential new transitional kindergarten program could begin at two schools in the Mountain View Whisman School District next year, board members announced last week.

Theuerkauf and Mariano Castro Schools will likely be the sites of the first transitional kindergartens, according to the board at the district meeting on Thursday, Oct. 20. The sites arose at the suggestion of associate superintendent Mary Lairon because they offered the greatest accessibility to low-income families.

The State of California now mandates a year of transitional kindergarten as part of the Kindergarten Readiness Act of 2010 (SB1381). The law goes into effect for the 2012-2013 school year.

Currently, a child must turn five before Dec. 2 in order to enter kindergarten. The new law will ultimately change that to Sept. 1 in the year 2014, although the change will be implemented in stages: Nov. 1 for the 2012-2013 school year, Oct. 1 for the 2013-14 year, and Sept. 1 for the following year. The same dates apply for the child’s sixth birthday in order to enter the first grade.

The bill stipulates that kids who don’t make the cut will be admitted to a transitional kindergarten program. In the long-run, this means any child born between Sept. 2 and Dec. 2 can attend this program. For the 2012-13, year it will be kids born between the November and December dates.

According to Lairon, the program will give younger children the opportunity to thrive in an environment that is more age and developmentally appropriate.

The MVWSD board supported the legislation because prepared kindergarteners won’t have to suffer the stigma of being retained. Board President Ellen Wheeler added that the idea of a child “failing kindergarten” puts pressure on parents and kids. Forty percent of kindergartens retained are simply much younger than their counterparts, Lairon said.

Board member Philip Palmer even wanted to see widespread implementation as soon as possible.

However, most of the finer details–including curriculum–have not yet been worked out—one reason why Lairon and other board members felt the program should be piloted before widespread implementation.

Wheeler hoped to see slower-paced and a more relaxed transitional kindergarten, similar to “old-fashioned” kindergartens.

“Kindergarten today is like first grade used to be,” said Wheeler. “You’re getting kids into an academic environment.”

Lairon said the district has identified between 50-60 eligible kids who can be enrolled next year. However, she noted that transitional kindergarten, like kindergarten is optional.

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