Young Fives at Grosse Pointe Public Schools: A Bridge Between Preschool and Kindergarten

If your child isn’t quite ready for traditional kindergarten, a Young Fives program can be a great alternative. But how do you know which program is better for your child’s development?

In Grosse Pointe and across Michigan, many children turning 5 by September 1st will be attending kindergarten in the fall. But kindergarten may not always be the right next step. Some parents know that while their child is old enough, they’d benefit from more time and support to develop academically, socially and emotionally. In these cases, the Young Fives program with Grosse Pointe Public Schools offers a perfect bridge between preschool and kindergarten.

“The Young Fives program offers an alternative for children whose parents feel that they are not yet ready for a traditional kindergarten experience,” says Keith Howell, Executive Director of PreK-12 Teaching & Learning at Grosse Pointe Public Schools (GPPSS).

A free program to ease the transition to kindergarten

Given the costs of day care and preschool programs, many parents naturally wonder about any expenses with this program. Fortunately, the Young Fives program is free for younger 5-year-olds who live in the Grosse Pointe Public School System attendance area. Eligibility is determined by birth date — children must turn 5 between March 1 and December 1 of the year they start the program.

The program runs Monday-Friday during regular school hours. After Young Fives, students typically attend their neighborhood school for a traditional kindergarten experience, says Howell. However, if a child meets kindergarten social, emotional, and academic expectations by the end of their year with Young Fives, parents can arrange first grade placement for the following year.

Young Fives enjoying Grosse Pointe Public School System
Photo credit: Grosse Pointe Public School System

Since beginning this program in 2016, GPPSS consistently receives exceptional feedback from parents.

“We started with having (Young Fives) at three of our schools. We had enough interest with those schools that over time the program took off and received a lot of positive accolades. Each year we added a new section within our district, and we now have six sections consistently within the district. We’ve had a lot of positive support from families,” says Howell.

A look inside an average day in the Young Fives program

On any given day, children in the Young Fives program will participate in large and small group activities, with physical education, library, music and art classes each week. 

“The full-day program includes age and ability-appropriate instruction in all common core subject areas,” says Howell. “Recess is part of our daily routine to foster gross motor development and play. We want all our Young Fives to be happy and enthusiastic to learn, so providing a safe and fun learning environment is critical.” 

So what makes GPPSS’s Young Fives program so successful?

“The personal touch that is provided by our teachers. The willingness to have conversations about the decision-making process and if their child should be in Young Fives or kindergarten,” says Howell. “We put a lot of time and energy into our Young Fives program and our teachers are fantastic.”

Signs that your child may benefit from Young Fives

As a parent, you may be wondering whether your children would be better off starting kindergarten or the Young Fives program this fall.

Young Fives at Grosse Pointe Public Schools

Howell emphasizes that if you’re unsure, your first step should be a conversation with your child’s preschool teacher. Ask if they feel your child is making the right developmental progress.

When evaluating whether a child is prepared for kindergarten, educators may consider a child’s ability to identify shapes, colors and letters, as well as their ability to count or write their name, says Howell. However, they also look at factors such as the child’s fine and gross motor skills like holding a pencil or throwing a ball, and their ability to make friends.

“It’s always good to have some of these skills. Not necessarily all, but some,” says Howell. “Do you think your child will be able to meet those skills within one year? If not, Young Fives would be a better option.”

While these guidelines help, it’s a very personal decision and it can be tough to decide what is best for your child developmentally. To guide parents through the decision-making process, educators at GPPSS are on hand to help.

“We’re here to support them. If they have a specific question about what’s the best fit for their child, they can go on the website and read about it anecdotally, but if they want to have a one-on-one conversation with us and teachers, we’re here to help them brainstorm and make the best decision for their family,” says Howell.

“I’ve heard from parents who regretted sending their child to kindergarten before they’re ready. But I’ve never heard from a parent who regretted sending their child to Young Fives,” Howell adds.

Learn more about the Young Fives program by visiting the Grosse Pointe Public Schools website.

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