As San Ramon Valley students gear up for another school year, which begins on Aug. 28 for SRVUSD, Tuesday will also mark the first time in more than a century that a new grade level -- transitional kindergarten -- is being offered in most districts across the state.
Transitional kindergarten was created by the Kindergarten Readiness Act, authored by state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, and signed by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in September 2010.
The legislation targets children who are too young to enter regular kindergarten and changed the minimum age a student can enter kindergarten.
The two-year program does not involve bringing new, younger students into classes, but rather it accommodates students born between the old kindergarten cutoff date, Dec. 2, and the new cutoff date, which is being moved up a month at a time over the next three years to Sept. 1.
Transitional kindergarten will feature a more age-appropriate curriculum for that first year before the students move onto regular kindergarten the second year. The school day is the same as traditional kindergarten with morning and afternoon classes, and features "structured play" as well as elements from traditional kindergarten.
An estimated 40,000 students around the state will be offered the transitional kindergarten curriculum this year, and eventually about 125,000 children will be eligible once the program is fully phased in by 2015. As of April, there were 221 SRVUSD students registered for the 2012-13 program, which is set to be offered at John Baldwin, Neil Armstrong, Golden View, Montair and Coyote Creek elementary schools.
The new grade level is the first in California since 1891, according to Simitian, who said in a statement that transitional kindergarten "will get kids off to a strong start at no additional cost to the state."
San Ramon Valley Unified ran a pilot transitional kindergarten program during the 2011-12 school year and had planned on continuing the program, despite budget cuts that could have eliminated funding.
AAA estimates that one-third of child pedestrian fatalities occur in the after-school hours between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Motorists are being reminded to drive with extra caution now that school is back in session.