BRENTWOOD -- Brentwood schools interim Superintendent Doug Adams recalls district conversations about developmental kindergarten that took place 20 years ago. This year, the Brentwood Union School District completed its first year of transitional kindergarten.

"It is considered another grade level in our district," Adams said.

Like most California school districts, BUSD implemented the new program this academic year after a 2010 state law added a year of transitional kindergarten for those who turn 5 shortly after the cutoff date for kindergarten enrollment, which is gradually being rolled back from Dec. 2 to Sept. 1 by the 2014-15 school year. The specialized kindergarten program was also offered in Oakley, Pittsburg, Antioch, Knightsen and Byron.

"This is a good program," said Lauri James, principal of Brentwood's Loma Vista Elementary School and a former kindergarten teacher. "We had to live it to see if it would fit our students."

Under the new law, transitional kindergarten became an option for children who turned 5 this school year between Nov. 2 and Dec. 2. The age window will expand next year to children turning 5 between Oct. 2 and Dec. 2, and in 2014-15 and afterward to those celebrating their fifth birthday between Sept. 2 and Dec. 2 . Brentwood also allowed students who were eligible for traditional kindergarten this year but had birthdates near the registration cutoff date to enroll in transitional kindergarten if their parents preferred.

"The program will continue from here forward," said Brentwood schools assistant superintendent Margaret Kruse. "It is a bridge between preschool and kindergarten."

The modified kindergarten curriculum in transitional kindergarten emphasizes academic and social skills like the fine motor practice of tracing and writing and following the procedures and routines expected in kindergarten.

At a recent Brentwood school board meeting, a group of transitional kindergarten students demonstrated how they organize their lunches and backpacks at the start of the school day and how they have learned to print their first names.

After being offered at Loma Vista and Brentwood Elementary School this year to 65 students, the program will be expanded next year to Garin and Marsh Creek elementary schools. Kruse indicated that there are already 98 students signed up for next year's program, with the staffing to accommodate 104 students ultimately.

"There is no charge for parents. It is publicly funded," Kruse said.

Reach Paula King at 925-779-7174 or pking@bayareanewsgroup.com.

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