Despite receiving mixed messages from the state regarding requirements for transitional kindergarten in the 2012-2013 school year, Los Altos School District officials plan to forge ahead and provide the program.
State Sen. Joe Simitian’s Senate Bill 1381, which mandates that public schools offer transitional kindergartens, passed last year. The bill redefined the entry age for kindergartners and introduced the need for transitional kindergartens to increase readiness efficiency. The Kindergarten Readiness Act changed the kindergarten cutoff date for students turning 5 years old from Dec. 2 to Sept. 1. The bill allows implementation over three years, beginning next year with a Nov. 1 cutoff.
Gov. Jerry Brown’s January budget proposal eliminated funding for the transitional kindergarten program, leaving school districts in limbo regarding their responsibility to continue implementing the program. Confusion remains over the status of the program.
Alyssa Gallagher, Los Altos School District assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said guidance from the state directs the district to plan to offer transitional kindergarten in the fall.
“Whether or not transitional kindergarten will be funded, it will remain a requirement,” she said at an April 2 school board meeting.
Gallagher said the district changed its earlier plans for the program. They had scheduled one central transitional kindergarten class at Almond School for the 17 students enrolled in the district, she said, but there is still uncertainty in the number of students, which could change before school opens.
To minimize financial and programmatic risks, Gallagher said the district would incorporate transitional kindergarten/kindergarten combination classes at each of the elementary schools. Students would remain at their home school, allowing for better allocation of resources.
“I think this is a good plan for the next school year,” Gallagher said. “It would allow us time to see how the legislation plays out so we would be serving the needs of our community and meeting the spirit of the law.”