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Soquel Union Schools to offer two-year kindergarten next fall

03.29.2010 | Santa Cruz Sentinel | Megha Satyanarayana

SOQUEL — With her son Ben on the age cusp for kindergarten, Santa Cruz mom Louisa Rowland weighed whether to enroll him at Santa Cruz Gardens Elementary or wait a year. She enrolled Ben, whose birthday is in August, and could soon see the difference.

“He was one of the younger ones in class and it wasn’t clicking,” she said. “He wasn’t interested and couldn’t sit still. Because he was younger, he wasn’t as mature.”

Ben, now 8, repeated kindergarten.

For students like Ben, the Soquel Union Elementary School District is planning to offer a two-year junior kindergarten program starting in the fall at Santa Cruz Gardens. It is the first such program in the county.

Teacher Michelle McBride said the idea came from seeing differences in both social and academic skills between ages 4 and 5. Looking over her class at a Thursday afternoon assembly, she said, “Probably half my class now would qualify.”

As envisioned, she said, students would attend one year of kindergarten, replete with state standards and approved curriculum, before going to their neighborhood school for the second year.

“Parents will say, I know he’s not ready, but I can’t afford another year of day care,” McBride said.

Santa Cruz Gardens parent Christine Cantando said what her son Dakotah, 5, is learning now, she learned later, which could be a challenge for some kids.

“Two years is not a bad idea. That six months can make a difference,” she said.

Junior kindergartens are not new in the Bay Area. The Palo Alto Unified School District started its Young Fives two-year kindergarten in 1976, and has more students that they have room for, said program coordinator Sharon Keplinger, whose adult daughter did two years of kindergarten.

“For kids to be school-ready, they have to have the behavior,” she said, and for English learners in the district, “they get introduced to the academic language.”

Rowland said a two-year program would have been ideal for Ben, and imagines it will be for other kids who need more time to get used to school.

“If you’re confused about whether to send a kid to kindergarten, this would be an answer,” she said.

Interested in a two-year kindergarten?
If your child was born between July 1 and Dec. 2, 2005, they may be eligible for the two-year Junior Kindergarten at Santa Cruz Gardens Elementary School in the Soquel Union Elementary School District. The district is looking for 22 in-district children for the pilot program, but will consider out-of-district students. For information, call Main Street School, 464-5650; Santa Cruz Gardens, 464-5670; Soquel Elementary School, 464-5655; or the district office, 464-5630; Applications are preferred as soon as possible. The deadline is June 30.

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