A new approach to kindergarten, meant to better prepare the youngest of those students for academic demands, is being introduced at most school districts in San Luis Obispo County this coming year.
The transitional kindergarten program is designed as a bridge between preschool and kindergarten for students who turn 5 years old between Sept. 2 and Dec. 1.
Traditionally those students have had the option of enrolling in kindergarten, but concerns by educators that the youngest subset of the class often struggled prompted a new state law.
Senate Bill 1381, known as the Kindergarten Readiness Act of 2010, shifts the cut-off date for students enrolling in kindergarten by three months over three-years starting in 2012.
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Under current law, students can be enrolled in kindergarten if they turn 5 on or before Dec. 2. That will shift to Nov. 1 for the 2012-13 school year, Oct. 1 for the 2013-14 school year and Sept. 1 for the 2014-15 school year.
The transitional kindergarten program is for students who are 4 years old and might have otherwise stayed at home or been enrolled in kindergarten.
Educators hope that the program would give those children the time they need to develop academically, emotionally, physically and socially before entering kindergarten.
“It provides a link between a more flexible environment in preschool and home to an academic setting in kindergarten,” said Barbara Boud, Atascadero Unified School District’s director of curriculum. “That way when they get into kindergarten they are rocking and rolling.”
Vocabulary, math, social and motor skills are to be taught in the classes.
The program was launched in Templeton and San Miguel schools last year and will be introduced in Paso Robles, Atascadero, San Luis Obispo and Coast school districts this coming year.
All California school districts are required to offer the program by fall 2013.
Sal Reynoso, the principal at Templeton Elementary School, said the additional year of kindergarten allows teachers to focus on learning the alphabet and numbers but also developmental skills, such as learning how to kick a ball and social skills like washing hands.
“Many times in kindergarten students are just expected to have those skills,” said Reynoso.
The youngsters are given more frequent breaks to move around and given more time outdoors for play.
The students in Templeton’s pilot program included youth who would have otherwise been held out of school because their parents wanted them to be older when they started and students who didn’t have any prior exposure to preschool, said Reynoso.
“We saw a tremendous difference between when they started the program and when they left,” he said.
Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939. Stay updated by following @a_cornejo on Twitter.