The Santee School District will soon offer a new grade level.
At the Tuesday-night meeting, board members approved a transitional kindergarten program, which will launch next school year.
The Kindergarten Readiness Act will slowly change the required birthday admission for kindergartners and first graders from December to September. The new law also requires all school districts in the state to establish a transitional kindergarten program for children who will no longer meet minimum age requirements for kindergarten entrance beginning in the 2012-13 school year.
During the meeting, board members unanimously decided to “transition to the transitional kindergarten program,” which will eventually become the voluntary first year of a two-year kindergarten program for students who are born between September and December.
For the 2012-13 school year, the district plans to offer two to three district-wide classes taught by current teaching staff for children who turn 5 years old between Nov. 2 to Dec. 2. If space permits, children who turn 5 years old between Sept. 2 to Nov. 1 will also be admitted to the program.
“All districts are required to offer a transitional kindergarten program, but we have the ability to decide which groups of kids we invite—what age do we want to transition into transitional kindergarten,” explained Kristin Baranski, the district’s director of educational services, during her presentation.
Baranski explained that the district will continue to offer Early Admission to Kindergarten, a state-funded program designed for children who missed the Dec. 2 closing date for kindergarten registration. Currently, the district enrolls students who turn 5 years old on or before March 16 to its EAK program.
Board Member Barbara Ryan said it “doesn’t make a lot of sense to have two separate programs.”
“If there’s a cut off there’s a cut off,” Ryan said. “But we’re taking groups of kids. If you’re September, October, November, you get to go to school all year. If you’re December, you don’t. I don’t think that’s fair to those kids.
“It makes sense to eventually get it to there is a pre-kindergarten so it’s just another year, and then you go to kindergarten and then you go to first grade, no matter when your birthday is.”
Superintendent Patrick Shaw agreed and pointed out that children born after the EAK deadline are unable to attend transitional kindergarten or EAK. He suggested extending the EAK deadline in the future, if funds are available.
“(Transitional kindergarten) could turn out to be a very good thing in terms of providing more support for those young children coming into school,” Shaw said. “We just need to make sure we include those children right now that are being left out. If we can expand the timeframe for EAK, that would be better, too. I think we have to be diligent about it.”
The Kindergarten Readiness Act, which Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law on Sept. 30, 2010, changes the minimum age for kindergarten to 5 years old on or before 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 and thereafter. First graders must be 6 years old on or before those same dates.
In preparation for the new program, the district formed a committee to recommend transitional kindergarten standards, assessment of student progress and monitoring tools, progress reports for home communication, curriculum and materials, staff communication and professional development, and parent communication.
“It has been our history that parents do want their children at our schools, so I hope there’s a high level of participation, particularly once they see what the program will offer to their children,” Baranski said.
In other news, board members elected officers through rotation for 2012. Dan Bartholomew was elected as president, Dianne El-Hajj was elected vice president and Ken Fox was elected as clerk.