schools.jpgIt was the first day of school on many Bay Area campuses, and Monday also marked the first time in more than a century that a new grade level–transitional kindergarten–is being offered to some students.

Transitional kindergarten was created by the Kindergarten Readiness Act, authored by state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, and signed by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in September 2010.

The legislation targets children who are too young to enter regular kindergarten and changed the minimum age a student can enter kindergarten.

The two-year program does not involve bringing new, younger students into classes, but rather it accommodates students born between the old kindergarten cutoff date, Dec. 2, and the new cutoff date, which is being moved up a month at a time over the next three years to Sept. 1.

Transitional kindergarten will feature a more age-appropriate curriculum for that first year before the students move onto regular kindergarten the second year.

An estimated 40,000 students around the state will be offered the transitional kindergarten curriculum this year, and eventually about 125,000 children will be eligible once the program is fully phased in by 2015.

The new grade level is the first in California since 1891, according to Simitian, who said in a statement that transitional kindergarten “will get kids off to a strong start at no additional cost to the state.

Monday morning in San Francisco, Mayor Ed Lee and schools Superintendent Richard Carranza welcomed students to school at two different campuses.

San Francisco is implementing a new student assignment system this year that will establish pathways where elementary schools feed into specific middle schools. City and school officials say the new system will increase continuity for the students’ academic programs.

San Francisco is also adding new crossing guards at a handful of intersections in the city to increase school safety.

AAA estimates that one-third of child pedestrian fatalities occur in the after-school hours between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Motorists are being reminded to drive with extra caution now that school is back in session.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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