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Major change coming next school year for the youngest elementary school students

Posted at 11:24 AM, Jun 26, 2023

A major change is coming this school year for the youngest elementary students.

"It’s basically adding a grade level below kindergarten and then making kindergarten into a two-year program,” explains Rick Mayfield, San Luis Coastal Unified School District elementary director.

Transitional kindergarten - or TK - is fairly new to some California public schools.

A couple of years ago, the State of California passed a law allowing universal TK for all 4-year-olds.

The move has been largely celebrated by parents and educators alike.

“We are their first experience in public education so we want to create an experience where every student feels loved and known and nurtured where we get to know every student and family and create this really strong community,” said Fiona Lloyd-Moffett, a TK teacher at Hawthorne Elementary in San Luis Obispo.

“We are so blessed to have this TK program and the fact that every 4-year-old will eventually have access to a full year of school before kindergarten - it’s such a joy,” said Lloyd-Moffett.

However, universal TK isn’t happening all at once. Schools are adding classrooms and students on a staggered basis, based on their birth dates.

Last school year, children who turned 5 between September and February were eligible.

This upcoming school year, that range will expand to allow more students, with children who turn 5 between September and April.

Eventually, by 2025, 4-year-olds with birthdays by June can enroll.

"It’s the most wonderful opportunity and all the TK teachers are so thrilled to welcome our youngest learners into our school district and I really think this is going to set the foundation for their future,” said Lloyd-Moffett.

Mayfield says TK helps set up young students for success.

“It's a lot of play-based instruction in TK and a lot of language building, you know getting kids able to communicate and just getting ready for that rigorous learning when it comes to kindergarten,” said Mayfield.

But it does take a lot to add more classrooms.

“We currently have nine TK classrooms, We only had six the year before and we are going to have 11 next year and so to find credentialed teachers, we have to purchase materials, we have to make sure the classrooms are outfitted," said Mayfield. "It takes a lot to plan for new classrooms to add a new grade level to a school district. “

For the San Luis Coastal Unified School District, all of the staffing and material costs come out of the district's general fund.

The district is currently talking to state representatives to get more funding to offset the costs to expand the TK program.