Transitional Kindergarten begins in Exeter

EXETER, Calif.

/*Exeter*/ Unified was the first school district in the area to welcome kids on campus.

Not only was it the first day of class at /*Lincoln Elementary*/ School in Exeter Thursday - but it was the first day of a new state-wide program for the district and Tulare County.

Lincoln Elementary Principal, Donya Wheeler said, "Students are expected now to read and write fluently by the end of the kindergarten year so what this curriculum and pacing allows is for schools to be given the gift of time so it moves at a slower pace."

It's called Transitional Kindergarten. And starting next year - all California schools must provide a two year kindergarten program that uses an age and developmentally appropriate curriculum.

Wheeler said, "Basically it's an early intervention program for young students that have birthdays between September first and December second."

28 students are enrolled in the pilot program this year. And it's taught by an instructor with more than 20 years of teaching under her belt.

"It's a pretty exciting experience," said Lorena Pena-Martinez. "All summer long I've been preparing materials that are appropriate for the classroom."

Materials such as recognizing the alphabet, writing simple sentences and learning different shapes and colors.

"Many parents aren't aware of how rigorous kindergarten is. They look at it as more of the older model where there was a lot of art, playtime and kindergarten is just not like that anymore," said Wheeler. "We really have to get these kids reading by the end of the kindergarten year."

Parents aren't currently required to enroll their students in /*Transitional Kindergarten*/, but those we talked with said it's a good head start.

Areceli Cabrera said, "I know he's going to need the extra help and it's going to benefit him."

The students seem excited too. Some tell Action News - they look forward to covering topics that aren't typically apart of the state standards.

Jessica Yardley said, "What are you hoping to learn? I think I'm gonna learn about bugs."

The program is funded through the state and the district says it isn't using any additional resources to offer the class.

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