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Facebook votes sought for grant

Tracy Public Schools leaders have been notified that the school district will receive a $2,500 grant from Chevrolet’s “Drive for Education” program.

The check will be presented at Friday, March 6, at the Xcel Energy Center, during the state boys’ hockey tournament.  KSTP and 45TV will broadcast the grant presentation live.

Tracy also has a chance to be one of two schools upgraded to receive a $15,000 grant.   People can “vote” for the Tracy Public School upgrade by visiting the PREP 45 Facebook page.  District 2904 supporters need to “click on contests” and vote for the Tracy Public School essay.  The voting period ends Thursday, March 5.

Lauri Fox, Tracy Area High School media center director, said that the grant money will be used to purchase new, non-fiction science and math materials for grades 7-9 students that are “interesting, but challenging.”


'Transitional kindergarten' proposed

By Val  Scherbart Quist


A transitional kindergarten program could be returning to Tracy Area Elementary School.

Principal Michael Munson and kindergarten teachers Erin Dahmes, Lindsey Krejci, and Susan Meyer presented information to the school board on what the program would entail.

Transitional kindergarten, Munson said, is another option for students who are eligible to enter kindergarten (5 years old by Sept. 1), and are not developmentally, socially, and/or academically ready for kindergarten. The program offers students the opportunity to grow and develop at a slower pace and enter kindergarten with more confidence, Munson said.

The size of the class would be seven to 15 students, with determination made through a process of preschool referral, birthday, and first sign-up if more than 15 students apply.

Munson, who saw how transitional kindergarten worked first-hand during his time in the Iowa school system, where such programs are common, said there are many benefits.

For students, it provides the opportunity to work on their skills for one more year in an all-day setting, allowing them to enter kindergarten with more confidence. It gives students who may have been behind academically to be at the same level or even above their peers, helping to reduce retentions in kindergarten and first grade. In his seven years of experience with Transitional Kindergarten, Munson said, he only had two students who needed special education services after completing the program. Without Transitional Kindergarten, that number would have been around a dozen.

For parents, it provides another option other than sending their children to one more year of preschool or potentially sending their children to kindergarten when they aren’t ready. Munson said he has been approached by parents who trying to choose between those options.

“I have never had a parent regret sending their child to TK,” Munson said. “I have had parents who regret not sending their child to TK.”

Munson said there are also many benefits for the school. Test scores will improve when students are given more education and better confidence at an early age. The district would benefit from additional funding from students who would not have been counted otherwise. Other advantages include improved class atmosphere and cutting down on needs for different services and retention.

The numbers would fluctuate from year to year, Munson said. There are two possible scenarios for next year. The first scenario would be to have two sections of kindergarten and one section of transitional kindergarten. The second would be to have one section of transitional kindergarten and three sections of kindergarten, which would mean adding a staff member. Munson said if a staff member has to be added, it would be offset by the additional funding received.

“I think it’s a win-win-win situation for the students, the parents, and the school,” Munson said.

Board members noted that a similar program was tried several years ago, but was discontinued. While unsure of the reasons why, Munson speculated that funding uncertainty could have been an issue. He said that although the transitional kindergarten would be completely different from traditional kindergarten, TK could be coded as kindergarten since the students must be 5 by Sept. 1.

Munson said the next step is to do a survey to gauge interest among families.