In Oakland, transitional kindergarten is still a go

photo of transitional kindergarten pilot at Greenleaf Elementary by Laura A. Oda/Staff

It’s been a confusing few months for families with children who are turning 5 in November — kids who, until this year, would have been eligible to start kindergarten.

First, they hear that their local district will be required to offer a two-year kindergarten program for their child this fall (and, eventually, children who turn 5 between Sept. 2 and Dec. 2). Then, they learn the governor wants to overturn the law instituting transitional kindergarten, and that districts — such as San Francisco Unified — are worried they might not have the funding for it.

Now, legislative analysts say that districts will have the per-student funding needed to pay for transitional kindergarten, even if Gov. Jerry Brown succeeds in repealing the mandate. And if the mandate stands, of course, districts will have to provide it.

Jeff Bell, who directs management consultant services for School Services of California, told me this: Whether current law stands or Brown’s proposal overturns it, “It looks like there will be resources in some fashion to have transitional kindergarten.”

Oakland Unified is going forward with transitional kindergarten , launching the new grade at 10 schools in the fall. Yvonne Delbanco, who is coordinating the Oakland school district’s new program, said her message to families and preschool providers has been simple: “We are moving forward exactly as planned.”

Have you signed up for transitional kindergarten? How has your district handled the uncertainty? We expect to have a full story about this next week.


The Oakland school district might be finished downsizing

Staff Photojournalist
photo by Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group

I meant to post this story sooner: OUSD’s school closure process — which was supposed to last for two to three years and shrink the district by 20-30 schools — will likely stop after the first round, when the district is a dozen schools smaller than it was last fall.

District officials say the target changed because they are projecting a balanced budget for 2012-13, one without a structural deficit for the first time in more than a decade. You can find the story through the above link and read up on the district’s latest budget report here. The financial report will be presented at tomorrow night’s 5 p.m. board meeting.

P.S. Some have asked whether, in light of this development, OUSD will once again use adult education funding for adult education. California school districts are now — at least, for the time being — allowed to use the once-protected funding stream for any purpose, and many have spent it on k-12 programs. OUSD eliminated its large high school diploma program and its adult ESL classes, with the exception of Family Literacy, among others. I’ve submitted your queries; so far, however, I’ve heard no talk about rebuilding adult ed.

Two related school closure issues:

On March 28, the school board discusses what to do with the closed school buildings. OUSD spokesman Troy Flint said the district is considering moving the offices (including the Family and Community Office) now located on 2111 International to Lakeview Elementary, one of the five elementary schools slated to close in June.

UPDATE: Flint initially thought the future use of Lakeview and other closed school buildings was on the March 28 agenda, but it’s not. I’ll let you know when I find out more.

– Flint also confirmed what some have posted here on this blog: oversubscription of the high-performing Crocker Highlands Elementary School. Continue Reading


The Kindergarten Question

I don’t know how I missed this, but in case you did, too: Annelisa Hedgecock wrote this Op-Ed piece in Oakland North a couple of weeks ago about her family’s school search — and the reactions she gets from other parents when the name of her kid’s Oakland public elementary school comes up.

Here’s how it starts:

As sure as it’s the New Year, it’s also school selection season in Oakland. Obsessing about kindergarten is one of those things almost every middle-class parent here does, as normal as buying a family membership at the zoo. So, parents are touring private school after private school.

Continue Reading


Kindergarten enrollments in the hills

I blogged in March about school assignment letters and the spike in neighborhood applications at Oakland’s high-altitude schools.

Well, some people may have just been hedging by applying to their local public school. In some cases, the actual registration numbers at these high-demand schools — while still high — are lower they were back then, or have remained steady. Redwood Heights looks particularly overcrowded, but the 54 children will be split between two and a half classrooms.


Chabot 97 87 Continue Reading


Should Johnny repeat a grade? No, says OUSD.

Last month, I stumbled upon a memo addressed to all elementary school principals, strongly advising them not to retain kids in the same grade for a second year — particularly kindergartners, English learners and special education students (unless that is part of their education plan).

“First off, the research is clear; retention does not work,” it says.

Continue Reading


The vaccination debate

photo from Inferis’ photo stream at flickr.com/creativecommons

More California families are choosing not to have their kids vaccinated, a trend that is worrying public health officials, according to a Los Angeles Times report this weekend:

A rising number of California parents are choosing to send their children to kindergarten without routine vaccinations, putting hundreds of elementary schools in the state at risk for outbreaks of childhood diseases eradicated in the U.S. years ago.

Exemptions from vaccines — which allow children to enroll in public and private schools without state-mandated shots — have more than doubled since 1997, according to a Times analysis of state data obtained last week. Continue Reading


Don’t forget those shots!

School starts just two weeks from today, but not for new students without immunization cards.

Sherri Willis, the public information officer for the Alameda County Public Health Department, said that when she worked in OUSD, hundreds of kids would miss the first few days of school — in some cases, more — as a result. 

Some families wait until mid-summer to make an appointment with their pediatrician and can’t get one in time, or they misplace their records, she said.

But don’t panic! You can take advantage of the public health department’s free and low-cost immunization program. It’s designed for uninsured families, but everyone can use the service — no questions asked, Willis said.

Check out the clinic locations Continue Reading


Full-day kindergarten: Should it be mandatory in Oakland?

Five-year-olds in Oakland are logging many more classroom hours these days than they used to. The switch to universal full-day kindergarten happened about a year before I came to town, but I understand the move was intended to help working parents while giving kids an academic boost.

Has it worked?

Carrie McKiernan, a Thornhill mom with an incoming kindergartner and a fifth-grader (who attended half-day), says the change has been a “mixed bag” for parents. While it undoubtedly helps many families with two working parents, she said, the new schedule — combined with ramped-up academic rigor — might be too much for some little ones to handle. She also says she has yet to meet a teacher who really likes the new structure.

In a letter to the Brad Stam, the district’s chief academic officer, McKiernan proposes that individual schools have more scheduling flexibility. Below is the text of the letter, which 25 parents and teachers from various schools “signed” electronically.

Share your experiences with full-day kindergarten by posting a comment or e-mailing me directly — or both. Continue Reading