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Enrollment for School District’s ‘Young Five’ now open

By MEGHAN BRADBURY - | Feb 17, 2021

news@breezenewspapers.com

The School District of Lee County has rolled out a new program for youngsters who may not be ready for kindergarten just yet.

Elementary Curriculum and Instruction Director Dr. Bethany Quisenberry said one of the superintendent’s top five strategic plans is working on ensuring students are ready for kindergarten, something that has been of focus the last couple of years. They started researching other states and programs that were ensuring their kids were ready for kindergarten.

“There were multiple states that have transitional kindergarten classrooms,” Quisenberry said, adding these target students that are younger than their peers.

The district decided to take a step in that direction and roll out the Young Five Program, which targets students who have a birthday between May 1 and Sept. 1 that might not be academically, socially and developmentally ready for kindergarten.

For the first year, 18 students will be accepted into each of 10 elementary schools offering the program.

The schools in the West Zone include Cape Elementary School and J. Colin English Elementary School. Those in the East Zone include Lehigh Elementary School, Manatee Elementary School, River Hall Elementary School and Sunshine Elementary School. Those in the South Zone include Edgewood Academy, Orangewood Elementary, San Carlos Park Elementary and Spring Creek Elementary School.

“We tried to have diversity of schools as far as location. The schools that had pre-K programs is part of how they were chosen. The majority already had Head Start or pre-K programs at their sites,” Quisenberry said.

Cape Elementary School Principal Nicole Osterholm said they will have one class, open to 18 students, for the Young Five Program. She said it’s a great program that provides a nice bridge into kindergarten.

“I just feel that it is a phenomenal opportunity for those younger kids that need a little more of that developmental time. We are giving them that time and support to develop some social skills under a certified teacher,” Osterholm said. “We are going to use one of our kindergarten teachers and one of our kindergarten classrooms.”

Quisenberry said the hope is to expand the program the following school year, but it all depends on parent participation, as it is the parents choice to enroll their child into the Young Five Program.

“We just started advertising it. We just put it on our website and started sending out flyers to the 10 schools and posting it on social media. I already got lots of great questions and great feedback from families. We are really excited. We really think it will be a great program and it will expand,” she said.

The program will begin in August when students return to school. Quisenberry said the students will begin at the same time as the other students attending the elementary school.

Osterholm said the program will mimic a kindergartener’s day, as far as lunch, P.E., recess and arrival and dismissal. She said the curriculum will be really focused on developmental of social and motor skills, as well as math and literacy instruction just below the kindergarten level.

“There will be a lot of interactive and a hands-on environment throughout the day,” Osterholm said. “They will have that same opportunity kiddos their same age, but the curriculum will be a little bit different.”

The literacy portion will focus on sharing and listening for information, answering questions about stories, identifying upper and lowercase letters and their sounds as well as increasing vocabulary. For math, students will be able to count aloud to 25, identify and write numbers zero to 10, copy and create simple patters and add and subtract small quantities.

The motor skills will focus on strengthening hand and muscles with cutting, coloring, drawing and painting, as well as develop hand-eye coordination and gripping writing utensils correctly. The Young Five Program will focus on working and playing cooperatively with others, participate in individual, small and large groups in the classroom, asking for help, taking responsibility for personal belongings and attending to self-care bathroom hand washing and dressing for social skills.

Quisenberry said the parent will receive a report card based on the skills and standards they are learning.

With the option of attending the program solely relying on parents, they have to go through an enrollment process to register their child for kindergarten specifying that they would like their first choice to be the Young Five Program.

Quisenberry said because parents still have to enroll in the school, it would go by student enrollment seats. She said the first batch would close to the same time student enrollment closes, which is Feb. 26 for the end of the first batch enrollment period.

“It’s really important that the family and school is in partnership with the Young Five Program. The following year the child goes into kindergarten at the same school, transitions into the kindergarten classroom,” Quisenberry said.

She said the majority of the kindergarten students that struggle have behavioral or academic problems and need just a little more time to transition.

Quisenberry said she has four children with her youngest having a birthday of July 29. With school starting in August, she said he was barely 5 years old and was not ready. Her child was able to do a second year of pre-K before going into kindergarten. Now, Quisenberry said he is in first grade and is doing phenomenal.

“I think it’s a great program for families to make that choice,” she said of those families who feel their hands are tied knowing their child needs another year. “They might not have the budget to pay for another year, or might not have an opportunity. I think this is a great process to be able to give those families that extra choice.”

Osterholm agreed that the Young Five Program will give families a choice for their children who have some late August birthdays, or just finished VPK and are concerned about starting kindergarten.

“It will build a really nice foundation and when they start kindergarten next year they will have what they need,” she said.

For families who have questions or need additional information, please email young5@leeschools.net, or visit www.leeschools.net.