Knowing if your son or daughter is at the right level — emotionally, socially and physically — is one of the hardest things to decide for a parent. Warren Consolidated Schools is trying to help remove that burden by giving parents many options to choose from, so parents can find the right fit for their child at a certain time. John Bernia, chief academic officer for Warren Consolidated Schools shares what makes this school district unique — and will set up students for success later on in their lives.
“Our preschool program starts for kids as young as 3,” says Bernia. The unique thing about the early childhood programs is “when you start our 3-year-old preschool, 4-year-old preschool, Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP), transitional kindergarten or kindergarten program, it will be your elementary school.”
He explains Warren Consolidated Schools is neighborhood driven, and emphasizes the strong community feel the schools all have.
Since they’re “housing their pre-K programs in the building of K-5, you get that long term relationship stared with kids and schools,” he says. “We house our early childhood programs in our elementary schools so kids can start to feel that identity and awareness.”
Their “World of Fours” or GSRP program is another option for parents who would like state funding for 4-year-old preschool. Transitional kindergarten comes before kindergarten and extends across two years, instead of one.
Helping parents know when the time is right
“The standard for kindergarten is a lot higher than it was when I was in kindergarten,” says Bernia. “For kindergarten, the law is written if your birthday falls between September 1st through December 1st, you will have to sign a waiver.”
In order for your child to qualify for kindergarten if their birthday is between those few months, they will have to pass what the school calls a “screener.”
“When families come into register, we do a kindergarten screener,” he says. “This involves physical skills like following the direction to pick up the pencil.” Sometimes the child may seem ready physically or mentally but is not ready socially — and that’s OK.
“This may (or may not) validate the parents own thinking if their son or daughter is ready, so many parents who are really nervous (about knowing if their child is ready or not) feel so relieved,” Bernia says. “This is really important to us as a district — the worst thing that we can do is start them in kindergarten and they start to not succeed, so their first experience with school is negative.”
The value of transitional kindergarten
“With transitional kindergarten kids can start to build kindergarten skills and have more time to do it (we call this the gift of time),” he says. “This allows kids to feel successful and work toward what we consider to be ready for kindergarten and beyond.”
Since all the programs and grades are in the same building, this allows everyone to work together. Bernia says how common it is to see fifth graders helping the kindergartners with reading or walking to the bus at the end of the day. You will also see the teachers and staff members working together to better their kindergarten readiness program as well as other things. It’s genuinely a family.
“I had a really good mentor when I first got into education, they said you’ll remember some of the lessons in school, but you will always remember how the teachers made you feel,” says Bernia. “That’s how learning can happen when you feel good and cared about; you’re going to do better in school.”
For more information about the early childhood program at Warren Consolidated Schools, check out wcskids.net/Departments/Student-Services/Kindergarten.