Coast Episcopal School in Long Beach launched its innovative Transitional Kindergarten (TK) program in August 2021, after identifying a need to provide a “bridge year” for students who would benefit from an extra year between Preschool and Kindergarten. Now in place for over a year and a half, educators at the independent school are convinced that the program has provided untold benefits to its participating students.
According to TK teacher Melissa Flickinger, students who participated in last year’s class are leaders in this year’s Kindergarten class, due to more self confidence and understanding of what is expected in an elementary classroom. She attributes that to the additional year providing adequate time for social and emotional growth which enabled her former charges to be on a social level equal to their age-leveled peers.
Parent Leah Watters, whose son participated in last year’s TK program and now is in Kindergarten at Coast Episcopal, echoes Flickinger’s observations.
“Our son’s transition into Kindergarten was seamless on account of established friendships, an understanding of the rhythms of the school, and having been enticed to love learning,” she said. “He began Kindergarten reading-ready and delights in the new things he learns.”
Flickinger also notes that, academically, her former students are exhibiting math and literacy skills ahead of rather than behind their kindergarten peers. “They have an expanded vocabulary and exhibit more advanced critical thinking skills.”
Allyson Winter, CES parent, chose this year’s TK program for her son. Says Allyson, “Transitional Kindergarten at Coast was the perfect fit for our son. He has a summer birthday and was not quite developmentally ready for Kindergarten but was ready to graduate from Preschool. TK bridged the gap, allowing him to mature socially in a smaller class setting.
“Ms. Flickinger customized his curriculum and met our child exactly where he was,” she added. “He is thriving, and we are fully confident he will continue to succeed in Kindergarten, thanks to his experience in TK.”
CES Head of School Jake Winter points out that the only downside to the program has been getting the message out that the transitional kindergarten program is not designed for students who have been identified as lacking in academic abilities. “That’s just not so. These are students who, for a myriad of reasons, will benefit greatly from an extra year of developmental growth.”
Kathy Terrell, CES Kindergarten Teacher, also sees a significant benefit from the Transitional Kindergarten program, “Since the TK option for “an extra year of growth” has been in place, there has been a considerable, for the better, change in Kindergarten’s pace. As a whole, this year’s Kindergarten class has been more mature with fewer tendencies toward distractions, longer attention spans, improved communication skills, improved independence, and more eagerness to engage, participate, work, and listen.” She added that the program sets the foundation of student-teacher relationships. “TK and Kindergarten students share playground time, thus allowing for an outside-of-the classroom relationship to begin to form between the TK students and the Kindergarten teachers.”
The school is so committed to the program’s ability to serve students well that they have implemented an academic assessment program for all new students who are kindergarten age-appropriate. “All of our prospective new students are assessed – from Toddler through Sixth Grades – to ensure that they are grade-level appropriate,” says Admissions Director Amy Egolf. “However, when it comes to prospective five year olds, we have them assessed simultaneously by both our T-K and Kindergarten teachers. Then, along with input from their parents, the two educational professionals decide which of the two programs will be the most beneficial and are in the child’s best interest.”
New student enrollment at Coast Episcopal School is scheduled to open on Wednesday, March 1. Families interested in additional information regarding the Transitional Kindergarten are encouraged to complete an online inquiry and schedule a tour of the CES Campus.
Photo: CES Transitional Kindergarteners’ lessons include time in the Seemann Makerspace, which supports the school’s STEAM-based curriculum. Here, they are learning about how rockets are launched into space by creating their own wind-powered rockets with paper, tape and straws.