Marietta City Schools to include transition kindergarten

Photo by Michael Kelly A group of pre-school children plays at the end of snack time in the Betsey Mills child care center. All are entering kindergarten in the fall, which for the first time in Marietta City Schools will include a transitional class.

MARIETTA — Although the wholesale reorganization of elementary education in Marietta City Schools considered in January will not take place this year, there will be a difference in kindergarten.

The 2018-19 school year will be the first for transitional kindergarten, a concept new to the district that is intended to ensure that all children who enter first grade are ready for it.

Letters dated June 7 were sent out to all parents who registered their children for kindergarten March 26-29, advising them of the screening appointment for their children. Screening will be held Aug. 22-24, and kindergarten classes start the following week.

Screening is nothing new, and children entering kindergarten are normally tested using the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment as a part of registration in mid-March. This year, however, the fall screening – held closer to the start of school because the district wants to “establish better baseline data” – will determine whether children go into an ordinary kindergarten or transitional kindergarten, a class set up to give some children additional skills before they enter first grade. Transitional kindergarten will be a one-year experience for most children who enter it, and they will move to ordinary kindergarten classes at their home school the following year.

A committee will meet Aug. 27 to go through the screening results and determine which children are suited for transitional kindergarten. Classes for all kindergarten will begin Aug. 29-31, a “staggered” start which is normal for Marietta.

“Sometimes, kindergarten age kids come in and they’re not ready, not prepared for the challenge,” school board president Doug Mallett said Monday night at a monthly board meeting. “Many haven’t been in preschool and we want to invest the resources so they don’t get behind.”

Hall said transitional kindergarten is not a special needs program.

It is, she said, technically a retention.

“It’s actually a benefit because of the third year reading guarantee – that’s mandated, and if you don’t pass that test, you’re held back in third grade,” Hall said.

“Transitional kindergarten gives the child that extra foundation. It’s a lot easier to have that conversation with a parent when the child is entering kindergarten than it is when the child’s in third grade.”

Superintendent Will Hampton said the incoming kindergarten group is about 185 children. He said the district is estimating that 15 to 20 of them will be placed in the transitional group. It will be a single class, he said.

Hall said the district has hired a teacher specifically for that group, someone with a background in preschool education who also knows the district curriculum and is familiar with children “who need additional support.”