Battle Ground Public Schools introduced a transitional kindergarten program this year at some of its primary schools to help 3 and 4 year olds better prepare for kindergarten.
Mike Michaud, the district’s director of instructional learning for primary and early childhood education, said the program currently serves 72 students at Tukes Valley, Daybreak, Yacolt and Glenwood Heights schools.
“We started looking at some data around child care and what preschool availabilities there were in the area, and we wanted to step in that space,” Michaud said. “We had kind of learned that there’s very few affordable preschool options for our families in our community and so we stepped into that space.”
The program helps the district “build a more robust preschool menu,” Michaud said. The transitional kindergarten program offers half-day options and special education opportunities.
“We didn’t really have a full-day, free tuition preschool option that we were offering to the school district, so we wanted to do better and we stepped into that space this year,” he said.
To get into the program, Michaud said parents must complete a short survey which asks about their income, the student’s kindergarten readiness, and other factors.
“Based on all of that information, we did our best to place all of the families that showed interest in the most affordable preschool option for their family, of the variety that we have access to,” Michaud said.
Over time, he hopes the program will expand to benefit the greater community, especially families who can’t afford other preschool options. Based on data he acquired through WaKIDS, only 50% to 60% of kids are “historically ready” for kindergarten, so “we believe that the addition of transitional kindergarten will help our community be better prepared for the kindergarten experience,” Michaud said.
The program helps kids understand the structure of school before they get into the “meat of the academics” in kindergarten. It also helps build social skills kids need to navigate a regular school day once they enter into kindergarten.
“Many of us have been out to visit the classrooms in the first couple weeks of school, and (we see) lots of smiling faces, lots of kids really enjoying being at school,” Michaud said. “I know that it’s also really benefited families in sending their child to school and having a place for the kids to go so they can go to work has certainly been an added value to the community. All things are going quite well from my perspective.”
There are currently 20 families on the waitlist for the program. Battle Ground Public Schools plans to implement additional transitional kindergarten programs in the future to help accommodate more kids.
The program was funded by a $40,000 grant and pandemic relief funds.
“That was a huge benefit. That $40,000 allowed us to help us with the purchase of curriculum, the purchase of classroom materials, supplies, furniture, those types of things,” Michaud said. “But the program itself is paid for through a portion of the dollars we get through the state, so there’s no additional cost to the school district. It’s funded like any of our kindergarten and first grade classes are.”
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