Public schools across the state have been opening transition-to-kindergarten programs for four-year-olds to participate in the elementary school program. The data public schools reported to OSPI (Excel download) shows a steady increase from September’s 3500 students to March’s 5700 students—a 50% increase in six months.

Transition-to-kindergarten programs offer a public school kindergarten curriculum to 4-year-old students. The requirements and oversight for these youngest elementary learners, including the facilities and learning materials, are the same as for kindergarteners. The goal is to engage families with 4-year-olds who need exposure to school to ensure success in kindergarten.

Private elementary schools have a long-standing tradition of offering pre-K to 4-year-olds. These programs provide developmentally appropriate environments and education with a proven track record of preparing children for kindergarten. Yet, the private pre-K classes must be licensed by DCYF, while public transition-to-kindergarten classes are not.

Private schools that want to provide transitional programs to students in need should be able to do so within the current oversight of the State Board of Education. Kindergarten classrooms are suitable for 4-year-olds who have been assessed and require such a program.