When many of us were young, going to kindergarten was relatively easy. One day, a few weeks before school started in the fall, when you were either five years old or would turn five by the end of the year, your mom walked you over to the local school and signed you up. And then, a couple of weeks later, you headed off to school.
Those days, however, are long gone. In addition to an ever-expanding roster of school choices (e.g. neighborhood school, magnet, charter, private, religious or home school) available to local families, there are now more kinds of kindergarten programs…as well as programs with “kindergarten” in their names, but which are really different kinds of preschools that lead into kindergarten for kids who do or don’t meet certain age cut-offs.
So here’s how it works at our local public schools:
- If your child will be five years old before September 1, he or she is eligible for standard Kindergarten enrollment. All LAUSD elementary schools offer kindergarten classes. (Though, technically, kindergarten is optional in California – state law does not require that a child be enrolled in school until 6 years of age.)
- If your child will be five years old between September 2 and December 1, she or he is eligible for Transitional Kindergarten. All LAUSD elementary schools now offer TK classes for this age group, as a way to bridge the gap between preschool and traditional kindergarten for kids who have birthdays late in the year. (Note: After completing a year of TK, students usually move into standard kindergarten; a few who are deemed ready may be promoted to first grade.)
- If your child will be five years old between December 2 and June 30, he or she is eligible for Expanded Transitional Kindergarten. ETK replaces old preschool programs formerly offered at many (but not all) LAUSD elementary schools. Like previous LAUSD preschool programs, ETK is available at only some schools, including – in our area – Wilshire Crest Elementary and Queen Anne Elementary. Also, unlike the preschool programs it replaced, ETK is a full-day program. It focuses on language, literacy and math skills children will need before enrolling in kindergarten. Like LAUSD’s previous pre-K programs, however, ETK is also free of charge.
At Wilshire Crest, ETK is taught by Eileen Washington, a Sycamore Square resident and board-certified teacher, who says she takes her ETK students even further than the curriculum requires, so they also learn letter sounds and begin reading well before the end of the school year. Washington says she particularly loves the local aspect of the program, and she’s trying hard to identify and enroll all eligible students in our area. (So maybe it’s not so different from the way we used to do things after all…)
There has already been one ETK recruiting event at Wilshire Crest this year, but families who missed it are welcome to visit the school (5241 Olympic Blvd., (323) 938-5291) on Fridays at 9:00 a.m. to learn more. The school office can also provide an application for the next school year.