RCS to offer transitional kindergarten program this fall

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published June 5, 2019

 Kindergarten students enrolled in Rochester Community Schools work on reading skills. The district plans to offer a transitional kindergarten program in the upcoming school year.

Kindergarten students enrolled in Rochester Community Schools work on reading skills. The district plans to offer a transitional kindergarten program in the upcoming school year.

Photo provided by Rochester Community Schools

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ROCHESTER/ROCHESTER HILLS/OAKLAND TOWNSHIP — The Rochester Community Schools district is offering a new program next year that’s designed to meet the needs of young students who might not be ready for a traditional kindergarten classroom.

The district is launching its first transitional kindergarten program during the 2019-20 school year to support 4-year-old and 5-year-old children who are developmentally in between preschool and kindergarten.

“We have a team of educators, staff and administrators who have been studying this work for about two years and have brought this proposal together, and it just seems to be such a beautiful commitment,” said RCS Deputy Superintendent for Teaching and Learning Debi Fragomeni.

District officials said transitional kindergarten offers children with late birthdays extra time and a developmentally appropriate curriculum to prepare them for entering kindergarten.

“Certainly in Rochester, kindergarten is very much about play, and using play as a gateway to learning, but there is still some rigor and some expectations about structures and routines — picking up books and understanding them, literacy, and doing some math, and even just separating from their parents and eating lunch with a group in a certain amount of time — these things can be stressful for the very youngest learners,” Meadow Brook Elementary School Principal Seth Berg said.

“In a transitional kindergarten program in Rochester, they would have an introduction to those things, with one developmental step removed, so that there are more opportunities for modeling and practice, and less of that academic piece that will then be introduced in kindergarten. Those stresses — in kindergarten, for some of them who aren’t quite ready — can distract them from the learning that we’d like them to engage in, so this will set a solid foundation,” he added.

District officials said transitional kindergarten students will not only learn essential pre-literacy, pre-math and other cognitive skills, but will also develop social and self-regulation skills.

Mandy Lyons, a learning consultant for the district, said officials hope to offer at least four transitional kindergarten classes in the fall, with the exact locations to be determined at a later date. District officials are also still in the process of determining if transportation can be provided.

“The program will be full day, and it will mirror our standard kindergarten classrooms. Transitional kindergarten students will receive specials, they’ll have recess, they’ll have lunch, and they will follow the standard K-12 calendar and academic schedule,” Lyons said.

The district’s transitional kindergarten program is designed to be year one of a two-year experience. After transitional kindergarten, children would then attend kindergarten within the district during the following school year.

Parents are invited to enroll students for transitional kindergarten through June 6, with student screenings held June 6-7 to prioritize the order in which the seats are offered, according to district officials.

During the one-hour screening appointments, students interact with other students, color and explore books in a classroom. They also have a one-on-one assessment session with an RCS educator using the Michigan Literacy Progress Profile to measure letter and number recognition and rhyme.

The screenings, Fragomeni said, also help district educators identify students who could benefit from speech and special education services.

“Children that are being screened that may have to come to our administration center for speech twice a week would now have their programming right in their transitional kindergarten building, as part of their day,” she said.

The district recently learned that Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist asked to observe its transitional kindergarten screening process because Fragomeni said the state is looking at a universal screener, called the Michigan Kindergarten Entry Observation, that could potentially come forward for all schools in the state offering transitional and traditional kindergarten next year.

Families who enroll a child and attend a screening appointment will be contacted by 1 p.m. June 8 with a placement offer. Families will have 24 hours, until 1 p.m. June 9, to respond if they would like to accept placement offers. If families have not confirmed or declined enrollment within 24 hours, officials said offers will be extended to other RCS families.

Families who have already enrolled their students in kindergarten for the 2019-20 school year and want to change to transitional kindergarten should contact the district’s enrollment office at (248) 726-3018 or (248) 726-3017.

For more information about the RCS transitional kindergarten program, call (248) 726-3501.

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