Nuts & Bolts
While many districts offer either full day or half day kindergarten across their districts, for some, the length of the kindergarten day varies based on the school site. According to the California Department of Education, instructional minutes for kindergarten and transitional kindergarten should be the same for both at each school site, but the number of minutes for kindergarten and transitional kindergarten can vary by school within a district.
With regards to required minutes of instruction, TK follows the same requirements that apply to kindergarten: 36,000 minutes per year, and 180 minutes is the minimum length of instructional time that must be offered to constitute a school day (Education Code sections 46117 and 46201).
In addition, TK follows the same statute as kindergarten in that the maximum school day in kindergarten is four hours (Education Code Section 46111a). More details on the minimum and maximum lengths of school day can be found under Education Code 46110-46119.
Full Day Schedules
For districts that are interested in offering full day kindergarten and TK, Education Code (EC sections 8970-8974) authorizes Extended Day Kindergarten/Full Day (EDK) if the local school board adopts a policy establishing an Early Primary Program. EC Section 8973 allows schools to offer EDK if both of the following conditions are met:
- the kindergarten program does not exceed the length of the primary school day; and
- the extended-day kindergarten program takes into account ample opportunity for both active and quiet activities with an integrated, experiential and developmentally appropriate educational program.
In your school district, you have the flexibility to offer TK in a configuration that best meets the needs of your student population. The following are some of the class configuration models districts have considered:
Stand-Alone TK Classroom
Many districts recognize that stand alone TK classrooms are preferred program design, as a full classroom of fall children allows teachers to really build out a comprehensive TK program. For school sites with larger kindergarten populations, often one of the three or four kindergarten classrooms is converted to a TK classroom to serve all the students with fall birthdays. In addition, there are a number of districts that are fully implementing TK in year one of implementation, thus capturing the September and October birthdays to make a larger TK cohort.
For districts that do not have a large enough TK population for every elementary school, but still want to offer stand-alone TK classrooms, some districts are taking a set of locally adjacent elementary schools and having one TK classroom at one of the schools, drawing from the adjacent catchment areas. Often times, the TK student will return to their home school for the kindergarten year or perhaps first grade.
Recognizing that it can be difficult to capture a pool of students for a full TK classroom, particularly during the three-year phase in process, some districts have begun their TK implementation with combination classes of TK and kindergarten students. Some districts recommend placing all TK students in one class and filling the remainder of the seats with children with summer birthdays (for age proximity), as well as any children who might benefit from the social emotional development a TK environment offers.
Regardless of how TK classrooms are organized in your district, it is important for school staff to talk with parents about the TK approach in your district, and the ways in which that approach will meet the needs of their young learners.
When it comes to facilities for classrooms, TK is treated in the same way as kindergarten. As such, schools will opt to offer TK in kindergarten classrooms in many cases. The requirements for what should be offered in a kindergarten are outlined in Title 5, of the California Building Codes (Article 4, § 14030):
- Kindergarten classroom size for permanent structures is not less than 1350 square feet, including restrooms, storage, teacher preparation, wet and dry areas.
- Kindergarten classrooms are designed to allow supervision of play yards (unless prevented by site shape or size) and all areas of the classroom.
- Play yard design provides a variety of activities for development of large motor skills.
- Classrooms are located close to parent drop-off and bus loading areas.
- Storage, casework, and learning stations are functionally designed for use in free play and structured activities; e.g., shelves are deep and open for frequent use of manipulative materials.
- Windows, marking boards, sinks, drinking fountains, and furniture are appropriate heights for kindergarten-age students.
- Restrooms are self-contained within the classroom or within the kindergarten complex.
Classroom setup for TK may vary from kindergarten in order to be developmentally appropriate for younger children. See classroom setup for more information.
How and when to offer transportation for students is a local decision you can make in your district based on the budget and your students’ needs. As with kindergarten, districts may provide transportation, but it is not a requirement. Education Code Section 39800(a), declares that for any school district, the governing board may provide transportation for the pupils to and from school whenever deemed advisable and when good reasons exist.