Transitional kindergarten, a program for children who miss new age cutoff dates for regular kindergarten entrance, is itself in transition in Piedmont and statewide.
The is developing a transitional kindergarten for the 2012-13 school year, Assistant Superintendent Randall Booker told Piedmont Patch in a recent interview. And judging by phone calls to the district office, Piedmont parents are definitely interested in enrolling their eligible children in the new program, Booker said.
But Gov. Jerry Brown's latest state budget proposal would eliminate funding for the program, saving California $223.7 million next fiscal year and about three times that amount by 2014-15.
Assuming the program is funded, here's a preliminary look at what Piedmont parents of children almost -- but not quite -- old enough to start regular kindergarten in fall 2012 can expect. Booker hopes to have a detailed plan ready to present to the Board of Education on Feb. 8.
In its first year, transitional kindergarten would serve kids who will turn 5 between Nov. 2 and Dec. 2, 2012. That's the first year the state will require children to reach their fifth birthday on or before Nov. 1, 2012, in order to enroll in regular kindergarten. The previous cutoff date, which applied for the current school year, was Dec. 2.
It would operate as an extra year of formal schooling, with transitional kindergarten enrollees attending regular kindergarten the following year in most cases.
The transitional program will be offered at only one Piedmont elementary school school, Booker said, but open to eligible kids throughout the district. It's still undecided which school will house the program.
Like traditional kindergarten, it will be a half-day program. It will also have the same student-teacher ratio, with a maximum of 20 students per credentialed teacher.
Depending on how many children are enrolled, transitional kindergarten could be run as a stand-alone class or in combination with a traditional kindergarten class. Even in a combined class, the curriculum and learning goals would be different for the younger group, Booker said.
"We're not looking at the same curriculum two years in a row," Booker said. "We'll look at the learning goals for kindergarten and first grade and then look backward to develop the transitional kindergarten curriculum and goals."
The program will be similar to what children might expect in their last year of preschool, but will also offer many of the same techniques and the structure found in a traditional kindergarten classroom, Booker said. And it will put children on an elementary school campus a year earlier.
A big bonus for parents is that the transitional program is free. Private preschool costs have soared in recent years, sometimes reaching the level of private elementary school tuition.
Booker said it will likely take Piedmont two years to enroll enough transitional kindergartners for a stand-alone class.
Under state rules, in the 2013-14 school year the program would be open to children who turn 5 between Oct. 2 and Dec. 2; in 2014-15, to those turning 5 between Sept. 2 and Dec. 2. That's in line with the state's new eligibility requirements for regular kindergarten entrance: age 5 by Nov. 1 in 2012-13; by Oct. 1 in 2013-14; and by Sept. 1 in 2014-15.
However, PUSD does have the flexibility to offer transitional kindergarten to children slightly younger than the state's guidelines, Booker said.
He's looking forward to March 8, the date when PUSD registers children who are new to the district. That includes new kindergarten and transitional kindergarten enrollees as well as students who are transferring to PUSD from other districts or from private schools.
"That's when we will get a sense of how many transitional kindergartners there will be," Booker said.
The district currently has about 150 kindergarten students, with classes at each of PUSD's three elementary schools. (Beach School kindergartners are housed at Havens Elementary School this year, although older Beach students are studying at a site in Emeryville while construction is going on at the school's Piedmont location.)
Booker encourages parents with questions about transitional kindergarten to call the district office at 510-594-2600.
For information about enrolling your child who is new to Piedmont schools, see the PUSD website.
For more information about state guidelines for transitional kindergarten, see this California Department of Education FAQ.