A new transitional kindergarten program will offer this fall will cater to its youngest students, but only at three elementary school sites and online.
Up until now, students could start kindergarten as long as they were 5 years old by Dec. 2. However, starting this fall, a new state law has moved the cutoff date up.
Ultimately, kindergarteners must be 5 by Sept. 1, starting in the 2014-15 school year, but school districts may phase in the program slowly, according to the Kindergarten Readiness Act.
Capo Unified has set the new start-by date for kindergarteners in the 2012-13 year to Nov. 1.
The transitional program, then, will serve the kids who would have started kindergarten but for the change. in Laguna Niguel, in San Clemente and in Mission Viejo will house the program.
“We have more than 100 students whose parents have indicated an intent to enroll their child in the program,” said CUSD spokesman Marcus Walton. The transitional kindergarten is optional for parents, and Capo will not provide transportation to them.
Looking at the demographics of this past year’s kindergarten class, 281 students would have qualified for the transitional kindergarten with a Nov. 1 enrollment cutoff date, .
An Oct. 1 cutoff date would have added 348 more students, while a Sept. 1 deadline would have added 312 more students, for a total of 941 children in transitional kindergarten classes, trustees learned.
Because schools will serve the same number of students in transitional kindergarten they previously served in traditional kindergarten, the law requires no additional funding allocation, even though districts now have to develop a new curriculum and separate classes for the youngest students, according to Preschool California, a nonprofit, advocacy organization working to increase access to high-quality preschool for children statewide.
Research shows that students who turn 5 in September, October or November do better academically if they wait a year before starting kindergarten, according to the nonprofit's website.
Deborah Kong, a spokeswoman for Preschool California, a non-profit advocacy organization working to increase access to high-quality preschool for children statewide, said all eligible children should enroll.
“We’re just really excited for this opportunity for kids to learn and succeed. Kindergarten is what first grade used to be. It’s more rigorous,” Kong said.
In addition to the program at the three schools, CUSD will also offer an optional virtual school for transitional kindergarten, called “Little Lincoln.”
Families that opt for the online transitional kindergarten, offered through the new Capistrano Virtual School, will receive a supply box with items, such as flash cards, books and paint, plus guidebooks with directions to help their child complete the activities, experiments, projects and games.
Kong said she it's also too early to say how effective it might be for 4-year-olds who obviously would need parental help.
“I haven’t heard of any other school districts doing an online school, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any,” she said.
Capo's Walton said if a family determines the online program isn't a good fit, "then there are brick-and-mortar options.”
As school districts around the state roll out transitional kindergarten programs, approximately 2,000 classrooms are expected to open this fall and 6,000 total classrooms should be in operation by 2015, according to Preschool California.
“Transitional kindergarten is going to be a game-changer of immense proportions,” said State Senator Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, who authored the law. “Full implementation will help reduce the dropout rate and propel students to achieve math and English language proficiency by third grade,” he said in statement.
Interested parents can visit the CUSD website for further details.