Glendale Unified officials this week outlined plans to eventually require that incoming kindergarten students be at least 5 years old, eliminating from the classroom the younger set who experts say can sometimes be underprepared and need more help later on.
The Kindergarten Readiness Act, signed into law in 2010 by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, dictates that starting in 2014, all students entering kindergarten must turn 5 years old by Sept. 1 — three months earlier than the current Dec. 2 cutoff.
The legislation also creates a transitional kindergarten for those students born between September and December. Upon completing one year of transitional kindergarten, participants will advance to regular kindergarten — essentially being held back to be among the first class in compliance.
Transitional kindergarten, like its regular counterpart, is free and voluntary.
“Some students in essence, yes, will have two years of kindergarten,” said Glendale Unified Deputy Supt. John Garcia.
The idea is that children participating in the transitional kindergarten will have a better foundation for future academic success, Garcia said.
“Even though this could theoretically cost the state more money and cost school districts more money, the rationale was that in the future it could decrease the amount of students who are involved in special education and need additional resources,” Garcia said.
Glendale Unified will phase in the changes incrementally. Starting in 2012, the birthday cutoff date will be shifted to Nov. 1, and students born between Nov. 1 and Dec. 2 will be eligible to enroll in the transitional kindergarten program.
In 2013, the date will be Oct. 1, with students born between Oct. 1 and Dec. 2 eligible for transitional kindergarten. And in 2014, the date will be Sept. 1, with students born between Sept. 1 and Dec. 2 eligible for the transitional program.
Cases wherein a student is born after the cutoff date, but whose parents want them to enroll in regular kindergarten, will be handled on a case by case basis, Garcia said.
“We would have to look, we would have to agree and then, if we determine it is in the best interest of the child, we would be able to place that child in regular kinder,” Garcia said. “So there is a little bit of discretion there.”
The transitional kindergarten classes will be placed at a limited number of elementary school sites to be determined at a future date, he added.
School board members on Tuesday expressed concern that the change of the kindergarten birthday cutoff dates coincides with the shifting of the district’s academic year, which is being moved three weeks forward. But they said it could also bring some benefits.
Officials anticipate that the transitional program will boost the number of kindergarten students by about 25%.
“It is more students in a sense, it is more [state revenue] in a sense, and it is more opportunity for some kids to be able to have more time in the classroom,” board member Nayiri Nahabedian said.