Children in a kindergarten class at Everett’s Madison Elementary School practice counting — at least one did so without using her fingers. The district is launching a new Transitional Kindergarten program this month. (Samuel Wilson / The Herald)

Children in a kindergarten class at Everett’s Madison Elementary School practice counting — at least one did so without using her fingers. The district is launching a new Transitional Kindergarten program this month. (Samuel Wilson / The Herald)

Transitional Kindergarten to give Everett kids a jump start

District’s new program aimed at children, age 5 by Aug. 31, who aren’t now enrolled in early learning.

At 5, some children are more than ready for kindergarten. Others aren’t quite there. Rather than ready or not, there’s new help for kids in Everett.

The Everett School District is launching Transitional Kindergarten, a free program that will focus on basic academic, social and self-help skills to give children a jump start on their education. For kids who qualify, classes will start at some Everett schools Jan. 30.

“It’s a nice way to transition,” said Anne Arnold, director of the district’s early learning department. “It will be a full day, every day, exactly like kindergarten, on the same schedule as all our elementary schools.”

For a child to qualify for the state-funded program, a major factor is not being enrolled in an early learning program. Children must also be 5 years old by Aug. 31, 2020, live within the district’s boundaries, and demonstrate some academic, social or emotional needs.

Those needs could include something as commonplace as never having been in a group setting with other children.

Arnold mentioned the recent screening of a child whose academic skills are good, “but she was really shy.”

“She didn’t want to talk to the screener, and didn’t want to leave Mom’s lap,” Arnold said. “A child might have been wonderfully cared for by Grandma, but have a hard time in a classroom with 21 kids and one teacher.”

Rather than excluding children, “our goal is to screen kids in,” Arnold said.

With classes starting soon, Arnold asked that parents take time this week to fill out an online form expressing interest in joining the program. The form seeks basic information — child’s name, information about any previous preschool or child care, the language spoken at home, and any concerns about the future student’s development.

Parents filling out the form can expect a call from a school official, and will possibly be scheduled for one of two screenings, planned for next Tuesday and Thursday, at district headquarters at 3900 Broadway.

At the Community Resource Center, children are being screened for kindergarten readiness skills, Arnold said. “If they qualify, we’ll immediately enroll them. It’s very exciting. We’ve had over 140 inquiries on the interest form.”

Everett’s Transitional Kindergarten is “designed to meet the needs of kids in the gap, they don’t qualify for ECEAP or Head Start, two public programs,” Arnold said. Head Start is a federal program, while the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program, often referred to as “E-Cap,” is funded by Washington state for 3- and 4-year-olds.

The district doesn’t expect every school to have Transitional Kindergarten. Six locations have space, and so far it appears there will be four sites. “Enrollment is driving it,” she said. “And it may not be where the child will attend kindergarten in the fall.”

Before the first day of Transitional Kindergarten Jan. 30, children joining the classes will take part in the Family Connection part of the state program called WaKIDS (Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills). Like all children entering kindergarten in Washington’s public schools, they’ll meet one-on-one with their families and their kindergarten teacher. For Transitional Kindergarten students, those meetings are set for Jan. 27, 28 and 29.

The district has hired staff for the program, and all teachers will be full-time and certificated, Arnold said. Several districts in the region have similar programs, she said, among them an early version in Bellingham called Promise Kindergarten.

Arnold sees the goal of Transitional Kindergarten as giving every child the best possible start in school.

“For children at home, they’re not in a structured environment. A lot of children in our school come from other countries. They’ve had a lot of great experiences culturally,” she said, but aren’t familiar with a classroom.

“Some kids, school is foreign to them. It’s not right or wrong, it’s what their experience is,” Arnold said. “And we’ve had a huge response.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

Transitional Kindergarten

The Everett School District’s new Transitional Kindergarten program starts Jan. 30. There’s still time to find out if your child qualifies. To be eligible for a screening, children must: be age 5 by Aug. 31, 2020; live within Everett School District boundaries; not be currently enrolled in an early learning program; and demonstrate academic and/or social-emotional needs.

To learn if your child may possibly join a class, fill out an online interest form this week at: www.everettsd.org/Page/30558.

Information: 425-385-4088 or 425-385-4024.

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