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TUSD moves ahead with TK program
State funding still up in the air
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The Turlock Unified School District Board of Trustees approved the implementation of a transitional kindergarten program for the 2012-13 school year, despite uncertain state budget scenarios.

The move to carry on with the TK program made sense to district officials after Governor Jerry Brown’s initial budget proposal was rejected by a sub-committee at the state level about three weeks ago.

“We can’t wait any longer, if the budget doesn’t go through TK will become law and we have to prepare and move forward,” said TUSD Superintendent Sonny Da Marto. “We have to follow the law and the law says to have a TK in place in 2012-13.”

In late January TUSD was in a quandary. TUSD schools were going to send home registration information for the TK programs, but Gov. Brown’s proposed budget was leaked to the public and it included the elimination of funding for the Kindergarten Readiness Act of 2010 — which funds TK. The act mandated all school districts in California begin TK classes next school year and move back the cut-off age for kindergarten enrollment from Dec. 2 to Nov. 1.

The problem was that Brown’s proposed budget would keep the Nov. 1 date but cut the funding — leaving children born in November out of kindergarten and out of state preschools.

TUSD officials weighed the financial consequences of not implementing TK versus moving ahead and determined to pull the trigger.

“We looked at the amount that would be lost from ADA and we figured out the difference between the average daily attendance funding and the loss of students for that month … (it) would be more costly for us not to go forward,” said Da Marto.  “We believe it’s a really good program and we think this will benefit the students because a transitional class will help that student throughout their academic experiences.”

TUSD has been collecting data on how many students they will plan to enroll.

“We’ve been collecting data and now we will make an extended effort to reach out to those families and get their children in TK,” said TUSD Director of Personal Development Kea Willett.

The district expects there to be about 80 children enrolled in TK next year.

“One of the reasons we decided to move ahead was that the majority of school districts in our area and in Stanislaus County are confirmed going forward with TK. We did not want to lose those 80 students next year and even more in the future,” said Willett.

Willett announced that next school year TK will be offered at Wakefield, Earl and Medeiros elementary schools. Afternoon sessions will be available. Students born in November will be admitted into TK programs primarily, however, TUSD can take students who are 4 years old until Sept. 1 under special circumstances.

“Ultimately, the goal is to have TK programs at all of our elementary schools,” said Willett.

Da Marto commented that students who attend TK at one of the three schools can return to their home schools in later years.

The first step in the process for the district is to find out who the students are and at the same time develop a TK curriculum.

“We are going to be building this from the ground up,” said Willett. 

The 2012-13 school year begins Aug. 20. In the coming weeks TUSD officials will collaborate with public and private preschools to identify potential TK students.