Little Ones

Tiffany Kellog sets up her classroom at Monterey Park Elementary School in Salinas to welcome 4-year-old transtional kindergarten students starting on Monday Aug. 8.

This school year, school districts have geared up to transform classrooms to make them suitable for the youngest students: 4-year-olds who will attend transitional kindergarten (known as TK for short).

California committed to an ambitious universal TK program that starts rolling out this year and will be fully implemented by 2025-2026, at a cost of $2.7 billion per year. The state provided $490 million this school year to build or upgrade preschool, TK and kindergarten facilities.

In Monterey County, different districts are at different stages of implementation. Some won’t see any major changes. Monterey Peninsula Unified School District has offered TK at all its elementary schools for seven years, with 190 students enrolled in 15 classes last year.

Cresta McIntosh, associate superintendent of educational services at MPUSD, says they’ve seen the positive impact of TK classes on their young students: “They actually achieve the standards at a higher rate than those students who have not participated in our early learning programs.”

Salinas City Elementary School District previously offered TK at six campuses and this year, it is expanding it to all schools, plus a virtual class, for a total of 15 classes. Last year, the district had 144 students enrolled, and this year they are expecting nearly 350. Classes start on Monday, Aug. 8.

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Part of expanding transitional kindergarten means adapting facilities to support the youngest kids – small desks, low toilets, and the like. Salinas City Elementary invested $1.2 million to upgrade and adapt classrooms.

Tiffany Kellogg’s classroom at Monterey Park Elementary has rows of tiny tables and chairs, dozens of games, and a fully equipped kids’ kitchen. “Children at this age really learn by doing and touching and feeling,” Kellogg says. “That’s what this kind of environment allows us to be able to do.”

The new law also required a 12-to-1 ratio of TK students to teachers, which means districts are hiring; SCESD hired eight teachers and 14 paraeducators for transitional kindergarten.

TK students do activities like building with blocks to learn shapes, holding a pencil and forming a line. Skills include sharing, taking turns and interacting and foundational socio-emotional skills.

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