Developmental kindergarten program to return to Royal Oak Schools

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published December 4, 2018

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ROYAL OAK — On Nov. 8, the Royal Oak Schools Board of Education unanimously approved a resolution to reinstate a developmental kindergarten program in the district.

Superintendent Mary Beth Fitzpatrick said staff will spend the next few months putting the program details into place so that in January, parents can begin to enroll and apply for developmental kindergarten spots.

“It’s a program that is intended for children who are not quite ready for regular kindergarten,” Fitzpatrick said. “The vast majority of students … go on to regular kindergarten, but developmental kindergarten is just another year that students would have prior to entering what’s known as the traditional K-12 experience in public schools.”

She said that the program would be highly differentiated to fit individual students’ needs, and that the district would seek an instructor with the skills and experience to lead the program.

The district used to offer a similar program many years ago, but discontinued it, so Royal Oak parents have enrolled their students in surrounding school districts’ developmental kindergarten programs.

Fitzpatrick said her goal is to connect local parents with the local developmental kindergarten program slated to begin with the 2019-20 school year.

“We hope they come back,” she said. “We do have calls (from parents interested in the program) coming in.”

Gary Briggs, vice president of the Board of Education, said he particularly likes that the developmental kindergarten program will be a curriculum-driven program that will be aligned with the district’s K-12 curriculum.

“It’s perfectly modified for that student to transition into the K-12 program right here within our own district,” Briggs said. “I think it’s a great program. I’m really looking forward to it, and I think it’s something that we’ve needed in this district for a little while.”

Briggs said the consolidation and closing of buildings was painful, but for the district to now to have the resources to resurrect the developmental kindergarten program is a good thing.

“It’s going to cost this district money, but it’s money well-spent,” he said.

Fitzpatrick said the district currently has a “wonderful, robust preschool program (with) a lot of options for parents,” but some children are not ready, either by age or by development, to begin kindergarten immediately.

“This would give them that opportunity to work on it,” she said. “It’s a full day, but it’s structured differently. There’s different parts to it. It’s individualized based on students and their needs, and the curriculum is more loose than the set rigors of regular kindergarten.”

She said the district began working on the developmental program mid-2017, knowing it would take some time to establish the program, as well as inform and educate parents about it.

“We’ll base our availability of it on demand and see how many parents apply,” Fitzpatrick said. She added that the district has not yet determined the cost of the program, its location nor how many instructors it will hire.

Parents interested in enrolling their students in kindergarten for the 2019-20 school year can attend Kindergarten Parent Information Night at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 17. The event will take place at each of the district’s six elementary schools.

Kindergarten enrollment for the school year begins at 7:30 a.m. Jan. 22.

For more information, call (248) 435-8400 or visit www.royaloakschools.org.