School district considers adding KinderBoost class

Posted 11/29/19

Parents of 5-year-olds sometimes face a dilemma: Their child is old enough for kindergarten, but not quite ready for school.

To help those students, Powell school leaders are discussing the …

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School district considers adding KinderBoost class


Parents of 5-year-olds sometimes face a dilemma: Their child is old enough for kindergarten, but not quite ready for school.

To help those students, Powell school leaders are discussing the possibility of adding a KinderBoost program.

Park County School District No. 1 Superintendent Jay Curtis told the school board he just wanted “to start planting some seeds” when he brought up the topic Monday night.

“We are examining what that [KinderBoost] would look like, the logistics behind it and funding sources,” he said.

Curtis emphasized that KinderBoost is not a pre-k program. Rather, it’s for students who are 5, “but perhaps developmentally they are not ready for the rigors of kindergarten,” he said.

“Every year we see an increasing number of students who have a higher level of needs behaviorally, a lot of it stemming from the fact that they’re simply not ready to be there, developmentally,” Curtis said.

Educators have discussed two options: Adding a KinderBoost class, where students would then advance to kindergarten; or starting a transitional first grade called T1, between kindergarten and first grade.

A lot of the kindergarten teachers favor the T1 model, because after they’ve had students for a year, they know exactly which kids need extra support, Curtis said.

The district is still in the early stages of discussing which program to add and what it might look like.

“We’re just looking at it from all angles,” Curtis said Wednesday. “... In the end, it might be KinderBoost and it might be a T1. We aren’t quite there yet.”

Curtis said he favors the KinderBoost model.

“We say that, as a Professional Learning Community, all kids are capable of learning at high levels,” Curtis said.

The Professional Learning Community model advocates against “retention,” or holding students back. Transitional first grade, Curtis said, would be an intentional retention program.

In contrast, “KinderBoost is not a retention program … we’re going to give them time to develop,” Curtis said, adding that you cannot control the rate at which a child’s brain develops.

He added that the program “could not be a behavioral dumping ground,” Curtis said. “That is not what the intent would be.”

KinderBoost also is not intended just for special education students.

“This would be for kids who legitimately are developmentally behind their peers,” he said.

Trustee Kim Dillivan asked if a student could transition into the program after school starts.

“Let’s say you have a child that is kindergarten material, but in October, the teacher says, ‘No, this child should really be in KinderBoost,’” Dillivan said. “Does it make sense to move them down in the middle of the semester?”

On the flip side, he asked if a student also could be moved up mid-year from KinderBoost into a kindergarten classroom.

Superintendent Curtis said those details would have to be discussed and worked out.

“I think moving up is more of a possibility than moving down,” he said.

The screening process would be especially important, said Chairman Greg Borcher.

Curtis said the district would need to develop or find a better screening process — and screen children much closer to the beginning of the school year. Currently, many incoming kindergarten students are screened in the spring and “their brain can grow by leaps and bounds between April and August,” Curtis said.

KinderBoost would be an additional classroom, likely located at Parkside, because they have the room, he said. While there would be upfront costs for hiring a new teacher and starting the program, Curtis said the district would receive state funding based on its average daily membership.

If Powell administrators decide to move forward with adding KinderBoost for next school year, Curtis said he would bring a proposal to the school board in the spring.

“I’m not asking anything of you right now, other than to know we’re having the discussion,” he told the board Monday.

Educators also are talking about the social considerations for kids, since KinderBoost students would start at Parkside, but may go to another school for kindergarten the following year.

“The social impact on kids is something that we cannot ignore,” Curtis said. “They have one set of friends, and then the very next year, you send them out to the other schools where they now have to make new friends again. … We would have to do some sort of transitioning somehow.”

He added that the argument could be made that a lot of students already go through a similar transition from preschool to kindergarten.

Trustee Lillian Brazelton asked whether the district would continue its Pre-K Transition Liaison program.

Curtis said he does not see the program changing, noting it’s many parents’ first association with the Powell school district and helps preschools prepare kids for kindergarten.

“That is truly a pre-k program, and that to me, that is so invaluable,” he said.