By Angela Rodriguez
As part of Governor Newsom’s AB 130 initiative to make transitional kindergarten programs accessible to all four-year-olds across California by 2026, the Sacramento City Unified School District has expanded its transitional kindergarten to 33 new locations for the upcoming school year.
Transitional Kindergarten, or TK, is an optional program for children between preschool and kindergarten that provides them with additional preparation for school. This support allows for students to build on their social and academic skills that they will need for future educational success.
“Transitional kindergarten is an incredible opportunity for children as young as five to start their educational journey early and be welcomed as a student in our district,” said Sacramento City Unified School District Communications Manager Alexander Goldberg.
Goldberg added that the TK programs in the district will be a free public education that aims to increase access to a caring learning environment at a time when similar opportunities have been unobtainable and unaffordable to many families that the district serves.
“The expansion to 33 sites across our school district creates a more equitable early learning opportunity for families in all corners of our community,” he noted.
Dr. Irene Bersola-Nguyen, who lectures on child and adolescent development at Sacramento State, said that TK helps children get familiar with the structure of schooling at an early age.
When Bersola-Nguyen was teaching first grade during her early career, her students were not prepared for the expectations of having a full day at school. Due to the unfamiliarity of having a traditional full school day, she said that her students were ready to go home after about four hours.
“The earlier that they are exposed to the expectations of schooling the better,” the educator explained. “However, the caveat to that is that some children are just not ready.”
She also said that a child’s experience in transitional kindergarten allows them to have more time and opportunity to be prepared for what to expect from a full school day.
While transitional kindergarten benefits a student’s overall educational success, Bersola-Nguyen believes that parents can perks from it too.
“Many parents in our society are expected to work, so when the children have somewhere else to go where they are able to build in their cognitive and social development, then there are individual and familial benefits,” Bersola-Nguyen observed.
Though transitional kindergarten is optional and free, Bersola-Nguyen said that parents should wait until their child is ready and has articulated that they are ready to go to school. As a mother of two, she’s noticed two very different attitudes when it came time for her children to attend a form of school.
“My son was not ready to go to daycare,” Bersola-Nguyen mentioned. “He asked why did he need to go elsewhere to be taken care of when his grandparents were home and could take care of him. My daughter said, ‘No, I want to go to school.’”
Both of her children started at different levels in their education, but she said that neither child had difficulty in their studies. The hardest part was transitioning her children and exposing them to being in a school setting.
Sandra Gonzalez, who is a mother of five, has noticed a difference between her two children that started school at an early age compared to the other three who did not.
“My two kids that started school at a younger age did a lot better in school,” Gonzalez said. “I feel like they’re more social and outgoing.”
She added that both children and parents benefit from transitional kindergartens. Kids are able to strengthen their social skills, and parents are able to work.
“Nowadays, both parents have to work,” Gonzalez reflected. “I feel like having your kids in TK is going to help with that. You don’t have to worry about babysitting and its cost.”
For her, it’s about parents being able to focus on their kids’ education instead of having to worry financially.
“I think that adding more TKs is going to benefit us. Kids need to be in school, especially at such a young age,” she went on. “When they’re little, they absorb everything, so why not put them in school?”
For those interested in registering their kids for TK and living within the Sacramento City Unified School District, families can submit their applications online or by submitting their application to the Enrollment Center.