Morton Elementary School implements Lewis County’s first transitional kindergarten program
By Eric Rosane / [email protected]
Something special is happening in Ward 17 of Morton Elementary School.
In the basement classroom, Transitional Kindergarten teacher Kevin Dunlap reads an alphabet book to a class of energetic and engaged students, most of them 4 years old.
The group of 25 are part of the school’s first transitional kindergarten class, a one-of-a-kind program not only for the Morton School District but also for Lewis County, according to district leaders.
“I think it was exceptional,” Superintendent John Hannah said of the district’s fourth week of schooling.
The program is part of a larger Morton School District commitment to focus on early learning opportunities, as outlined in the district’s recently adopted 10-year strategic plan.
The new transitional kindergarten program has so far received rave reviews from parents, families and students. The program works like this: Instead of students enrolling in a second year of preschool, the transitional preschool acts as a step forward, allowing students to take full-time in-person classes and five days a week.
Transitional Kindergarten classes start similarly to Kindergarten in that students are highly activity-focused and ‘learn through play’, but move on to more program-oriented learning later in the year. which helps them move on to kindergarten, a year when public education usually begins.
“I hope we will bridge the vocabulary gap between children and make sure that children, when they enter kindergarten, know what school is about, know how to get along with children, know things as simple as sharing… So that teachers can focus on more of the curriculum, ”said elementary principal Josh Brooks.
District leaders also see this as an opportunity to catch up with students who may not be learning these basic learning skills and functions at a rate similar to that of their peers. Early learning education has been touted as fundamental to a child’s educational success and achievements throughout their educational career and beyond.
Dunlap, a former kindergarten teacher who worked in the district for four years, said he was “all for” leading the load on the district’s new transitional kindergarten program.
“It’s a lot of fun working with these guys every day. They get so excited every day,” he said of his class. “The goal of this program is to bridge that education gap that you see in kindergarten… and even on the playground.”
Much of the first four weeks, Dunlap said, was devoted to polite exploration of topics, play and social interactions. Plus, there was plenty of reading and activity time.
Across the hall from her new classroom is Room 16, where Tiffany Coleman and elementary school staff are preparing another classroom to be occupied by halfway kindergartens. In the coming weeks, half of Dunlap’s class of 25 students will split up and be under Coleman’s supervision.
“Their minds are like sponges, so it’s just just exciting to have this impact on their educational careers,” said Coleman, a para-educator from Morton recently hired for the role of transitional kindergarten teacher.
Jackie Dunlap, an instructor in the Early Childhood Education and Support Program (E-CEAP), also known as pre-K, teaches just down the hall where her son, Kevin Dunlap teaches (in fact, there are five Dunlaps in total who teach in Morton School District).
In E-CEAP, students attend classes for half a day, four days a week.
She has been teaching at Morton for 27 years and has taught almost every grade, but this is her first year of teaching at E-CEAP, the lower level of her son’s class.
“When Kevin gets them, he’ll teach them how to spell their names, count higher and hopefully get into the program more,” she said.
Kevin Dunlap said families and parents are committed and supporting the new Transitional Kindergarten program.
“It’s teamwork. It’s me, you and their child, working together. I send newsletters home asking (parents) to reinforce the skills we learn in the classroom. makes a huge difference, ”he said. “They love the program so far. I have a lot of comments and people who enjoy communication. Their kids come home every day and really love school.
Brooks said the program is important because it helps remove many barriers that exist for families seeking day care or a learning environment for their children.
Seven years ago, about 70% of the Morton School District student body qualified for a free and discounted lunch, Hannah said. Today it’s around 55%, although Hannah thinks it may be an undercoverage. Many more families than they can confirm are currently struggling with poverty.
Morton’s transitional kindergarten program was based on a similar program held at Bellingham Public Schools. Brooks said the Whatcom County School District has been very open and willing to share its success with Morton and detail the mistakes he learned during the process of creating a program from scratch.