2010-02-12 / Schools

Junior kindergarten program to help younger students ease into school

By Jeffrey Dransfeldt jdransfeldt@theacorn.com

Parents who feel their children may not be ready for kindergarten but aren’t being challenged by preschool may have a new choice: junior kindergarten.

The Pleasant Valley School District will offer junior kindergarten classes starting in the fall at Tierra Linda and Camarillo Heights elementary schools.

Tierra Linda kindergarten teacher Janet Newton said the program can benefit young students who haven’t attended preschool.

“This would be a great opportunity for this to be their first school experience,” Newton said. “It’s the gift of time for some of those students who are just not quite ready for the traditional classroom.”

The fall program is open to children on the younger side of kindergarten-eligible—those born from Aug. 1 to Dec. 2, 2005. Enrollment for the program is by application from the student’s neighborhood school from March 8 to 25.

Parents will be notified by May 14 whether or not their child has been accepted for the junior kindergarten program since space is limited.

Junior kindergarten is described as a “developmental, hands-on instructional program.” Traditional kindergarten classes ask students to tackle grade-level state standards, whereas junior kindergarten will be taught at a slower pace.

Class size will be limited to 20 students, and hours will be daily from 8:10 to 11:30 a.m. Afterschool child care will be available at both schools.

The program is in its infancy. Linda Peralta, district assistant superintendent of curriculum, said she doesn’t expect job postings for teachers to go out before spring. The level of interest in the program and whether or not the district can fill two classes will determine the number of teachers needed.

According to Camarillo Heights principal Liz Silverman, there is a “huge” level of interest in the program.

Her school held an open house to introduce parents to the junior kindergarten program, which, she said, has been a popular topic.

Silverman said the program is “going to really fill a niche that’s needed on campus.”

“I believe that there are a lot of kids on the younger side who may just not be ready for kindergarten,” she said.

Peralta said she believes junior kindergarten can help bridge the gap between younger children who turn 5 in kindergarten and those turning 6. That age difference can be significant, she said.

“There’s a huge developmental gap that can happen,” Peralta said.

The four traditional kindergarten teachers at Tierra Linda meet every Thursday after school to plan curriculum and activities. The new junior kindergarten teacher will be included in the meetings, Newton said.

“Just so we’re all on the same track.”

Once students complete junior kindergarten, they will be recommended for first grade or for traditional kindergarten.

Teachers will update parents on their children’s progress through informal and formal parent-teacher conferences.

Junior kindergarten students will have homework and will participate in many of the same activities as regular kindergarten students, including field trips and assemblies. There will also be activities specifically for children in junior kindergarten.

“They’ll be out on the playground together,” Peralta said. “They’ll have activities with typical kindergarten peers and assemblies and field trips. They’ll have chances to integrate with other kindergartners on campus.”

When they complete the program, the students will be assigned to their neighborhood school whether they continue in kindergarten or they enter first grade.

Parents seeking to keep their children at the same school as the junior kindergarten program will need to fill out a School Choice Application.

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