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School districts prepare new transitional kindergartens

04.26.2012 | San Gabriel Valley Tribune | Richard Irwin


The 5-year-olds played with a farm, while others read their colorfully crayoned farm booklets aloud.

They certainly knew their horses from their cows, laughing when someone got them reversed. And the tykes bubbled with energy as recess grew near.

Welcome to the transitional kindergarten at Yorbita Elementary School. The pilot program is helping Rowland Unified gear up for the new classes expanding to every elementary school next year.

Under the new state plan, younger children will be allowed to enroll in the special kindergartens. In fact, the Kindergarten Readiness Act of 2010 will gradually change the birth dates for entry from Dec. 1 to Sept. 1.

While the change of a few months may seem insignificant, it actually can mean a big difference in the students.

“When you consider they’ll be in same class as students born in January, that’s almost a year difference,” explained teacher Jackie Bennett. “During those early years, that’s a big difference in children who are growing and developing so fast.”

The veteran kindergarten teacher, who has a degree in child development, believes the new transitional kindergartens will spell the difference between academic success and failure in many young students.

“With the new class, we’re giving them time to develope their social as well as academic skills,” Bennett added.

This time will allow the rambunctious pupils a chance to mature at their own rate.


“By assessing the students, we can determine their language, reading and math levels. And many 5-years-olds aren’t really ready for the traditional kindergarten. They also don’t have the attention spans that older children have,” Bennett said.

So the transitional kindergarten will serve as a bridge between preschool and kindergarten. It will give the youngsters a good head start in their educations.

“I’ve seen these kids struggle in regular kindergartens and we’re setting them up for failure in later years,” she noted. “Kindergarten provides the base needed for academic success.”

Executive director Bonnie Wilson of Hacienda La Puente Unified agreed wholeheartedly. She said the large district already has 130 children signed up for transitional kindergarten.

“This will absolutely help our youngest students. Many don’t have the oral language skills they need in a regular kindergarten,” Wilson said. “Our committee made several trips to Los Angeles to see transitional kindergartens and we saw what a big difference they make.”

The administrator agreed that the extra year allows students time to mature developmentally and acquire the readiness skills they need for school.

“We are giving them the gift of time. We want them to have the skills they need to be successful,” Wilson said.

Jackie Brown, the director of educational programs at Walnut Valley Unified, said its two transitional classes have almost been filled. Walnut Valley will consider a third class if the need warrants.

“We want to start small, so we’ll offer transitional kindergarten at Castle Rock Elementary in Diamond Bar and Vejar Elementary in Walnut,” Brown said.

The administrator said the class will be a hybrid that blends best practices from preschool with those in kindergarten. The youngster will learn through many hands-on activities.

Brown said the class will be part of a two-year kindergarten experience. The first year in the transitional kindergarten, followed by a regular standards-based kindergarten.

“We hope they’ll become leaders in their classrooms, confident with the school-day routine,” she added.

Of course the school districts are implementing the program in different ways. All will use fully credentialed teachers, many with degrees in early childhood development.

Rowland Unified

Rowland Unified plans to offer transitional kindergartens in every elementary school except Telesis Academy. Children who turn 5 years old between Sept. 1 and Dec. 2 may enroll in next year’s classes.

For more information, parents can visit www.tkcalifornia.org or call Kindergarten Specialist Beth Hodges at 626-935-8260.

Registration packets are available at Rowland Unified schools or call the Pupil Services Office at 626-935-8203.

Hacienda La Puente Unified

Hacienda La Puente Unified will offer transitional kindergartens at four elementary schools to be named in May. Children who turn 5 years old between Sept. 1 and Dec. 2 may enroll in next year’s classes.

Parents will be responsible for driving their children to the kindergartens. The students will return to their home schools for regular kindergarten the next year.

For more information, parents can visit www.tkcalifornia.org or call Director Bonnie Wilson at 626-933-3829. Registration packets are available at Hacienda La Puente Unified Schools.

Walnut Valley Unified

Walnut Valley Unified will offer transitional kindergartens at Castle Rock and Vejar elementaries. Children who turn 5 years old between Sept. 1 and Dec. 2 may enroll in next year’s class.

Parents will be responsible for driving their children to the kindergartens. The students will return to their home schools for regular kindergarten the next year.

For more information, parents can visit www.tkcalifornia.org or call Jackie Brown, director of Educational Programs, at 909-595-1261, ext. 31215. Registration packets are available at Walnut Valley Unified schools.

richard.irwin@sgvn.com

626-962-8811, Ext. 2801

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