Transitional Kindergarten Program Launches at Cabrillo Elementary Schools

08.01.2012 | Lincoln News Messenger | Stephanie Dumm

Children too young to start kindergarten this year due to the state-mandated Nov. 1 cut-off for turning 5 will have a place within the school district to learn.

Mary Boyle, Western Placer Unified School District’s Deputy Superintendent of Educational Services, said the district would offer transitional kindergarten for students that turn 5 after Nov. 1.

“Senate Bill 1381, called the Kindergarten Readiness Act, was passed in 2010,” Boyle said. “SB 1381 amended the California Education Code, (which) is what governs the admission age for kindergarten and first-grade.”

A majority of states in the United States “have a cut-off of Sept. 1,” Boyle said, when it comes to children turning 5 prior to kindergarten.

“Children are prepared to be away from home, respond to another adult and meet the challenges of state standards,” said Boyle of the benefits of children turning 5 earlier in a year rather than in the fall. “It’s better when they are a little bit older.”

For the 2013-14 school year, incoming kindergartners must be 5 prior to Oct. 1, according to Boyle, and in 2014-15 children must be 5 before Sept. 1 to enter kindergarten.

One transitional kindergarten classroom will be offered at Twelve Bridges Elementary School, according to Boyle, and 19 children were already enrolled, as of Monday. The classroom has a capacity of 25 students, and if more students than that enroll, a second transitional kindergarten would be offered.

The district is expected to receive funding for transitional kindergarten from the state, according to Boyle.

Like kindergarten, Boyle said transitional kindergarten is not mandatory.

“Kindergarten is not a required, mandatory grade. It’s an option for any parent but it’s not required,” Boyle said. “If a child has a Nov. 5 birthday and chose not to enroll in transitional kindergarten, the option would be preschool or remain home for another year. The following year, they would enter regular kindergarten.”

Boyle said transitional kindergarten is “considered the first year of a two-year kindergarten program,” which will “bridge preschool foundations and common course state standards for kindergarten.”

Kindergarten is “great preparation academically, socially and emotionally” for school, according to Boyle.

“Academically, state standards are so strenuous and it’s important children get off to a good start,” Boyle said. “Socially and emotionally, it’s everything about being in a group class, taking turns, lining up, allowing children to speak before you get to speak, all of those social and emotional things that appear in a group setting. Children learn social norms and skills.”

Parents of preschool and kindergarten age children The News Messenger spoke with had varying opinions about the new age cut-off.

“I think it’s OK because 4 is really young for kindergarten,” said Tracy Dennis, who has a child entering kindergarten this year and another who will start kindergarten the next school year. “(The district) is not leaving anyone high and dry (by offering transitional kindergarten). It sounds like a great way to transition the younger kids into kindergarten.”

Dennis said she doesn’t “worry” about her younger daughter’s age when it comes to academics.

“I worry more about her socially. She’s younger than some of the other children and I worry that she won’t make friends with the other kids (that are) older,” Dennis said. “I’m cool with the rollback, especially since the district is providing transitional kindergarten. It’s good for them to get the basics and then enroll into kindergarten the next year.”

To Ginger James, the signing of SB 1381 took the decision on whether to hold her daughter back a year “out of my hands.”

“I started thinking about kindergarten with her when she was 3. I thought she was too young to be starting the year she turned 5 and I was on the border,” James said. “With my son, it was easy because he has a Dec. 22 birthday. He didn’t even make the cut off. The year he turned 6 was when he started kindergarten and he has excelled academically and socially.”

James said her daughter “would be OK academically” if she started kindergarten next year.

“Socially, I think she needed the extra year,” James said. “I was willing to hold her back.”

For Lisa Hatten, her daughter having a Dec. 15 birthday meant a change in work schedule and kindergarten at a private school in Rocklin.

Her daughter will start first-grade at Foskett Ranch Elementary School this coming school year after being assessed at the school and spending the last few months of last year in kindergarten at Foskett Ranch Elementary School.

“The principal (at Foskett) did work well with us. She sent us the law and said, ‘This is what the bill said. See if you can figure out a loophole,’” Hatten said.

Hatten said her daughter “was ready” for kindergarten, having attended preschool since birth and “after doing homework with our other two kids.”

“It was a hardship because (private kindergarten) was $5,000 a year and then there was the driving. She was in Rocklin and my other two kids were in Rocklin so I had to change my hours at work to pick up the other two,” Hatten said.

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