The Turlock Unified School District Board of Trustees were presented with guidelines incorporating universal transitional kindergarten in the district. California passed a $2.7 billion initiative last year calling for universal TK to be transitioned into all public schools by 2025.
“(Transitional kindergarten is) a school grade that serves as a bridge between preschool and kindergarten, to provide students with time to develop fundamental skills needed for success in school in a setting that is appropriate to the student's age and development,” the California Department of Education said in a statement after the initiative was passed.
TK has traditionally been available for kids whose 5th birthdays are between Sept. 2 and Dec. 2 of the school year. For example, if a child turns 5 on Oct. 5, then he or she is eligible to enroll in a TK class at their local public school. The initiative and TUSD are expanding eligibility to include all children starting at four years old. Children who attend and complete TK then move on to kindergarten the following year. So, a child with a birthday within the TK range will have two years of kindergarten experience before going to first grade.
“Transitional kindergarten is a school grade,” said TUSD’s Heidi Lawler. “It is really in the mind of creating a bridge between preschool and kindergarten to allow students to be successful, and working with children’s’ specific age and developmental level to ensure that success.”
The measure also establishes an adult to student ratio. For schools that will start implementing TK in the 2022-2023 school year, they are required to have a 1:12 ratio, starting the next school year the ratio has to be 1:10. The language does not specify if the adult has to be a credential teacher.
The initiative does not call to replace existing childhood developmental programs, but to expand on options for families. Lawler noted that the state has to meet some funding requirements to meet some of the goals of the program, and if it isn’t, then some of the goals need to be scaled back. ‘
“It will be really important to look to parents for their interest and choice,” said Lawler. “For some families they might want to stay in preschool rather than go to TK, or some families may want to retain their private providers. But the goal is working together to make sure every four-year-old has that strong experience to prepare them for kindergarten.”
Until the 2025 school year, TK will be available that school year for children whose birthday falls Sept. 2 to Feb. 2. After the 2025-2026 school year, TK will be available to all students who are four years old. The district currently has voluntary TK options at Cunningham and Walnut campuses and the district is estimating need four or five additional TK sites for the 2022-2023 school year.
TUSD staff participated in multiple trainings and webinars to get ready for the implementation. They are collaborating with all districts across the county and will be presenting the board with a plan of action at the June 30 board meeting.