Transitional Kindergarten program at OISD put on hold

Transitional Kindergarten on Orcas will not happen any time soon

At its regular meeting on Feb. 27, the Orcas Island School Board announced it would be postponing the launch of a preschool program.

“Discussions around Transition to Kindergarten and its shortfalls as developed by the state have provided us with a larger vision of what could be possible on Orcas Island. OISD will continue to engage in meaningful conversation and collaboration with the Early Childhood Education Initiative to bring about the best possible learning experience for the children of Orcas Island,” Superintendent Eric Webb told the Sounder.

Webb says the district does not have a timeline for reconsidering TK at this time.

Transitional kindergarten is a public school program for children aged five or about to turn five who do not have access to high-quality early learning experiences and have been identified as needing additional support to be successful in kindergarten. It is provided at no cost to families and is fully integrated into the school system, providing students with access to meals, transportation and recess. TK is intended for communities that are a “child care desert,” meaning there are few affordable daycare options for kids under the age of 5.

Those in opposition to the program coming to Orcas voiced concern that TK could adversely affect the existing early childhood education community that has provided access to high-quality preschool to all, regardless of ability to pay, for decades. This past January, Webb began meeting with the Early Childhood Education Initiative and directors of the island’s three early learning centers –Kaleidoscope, Children’s House and Orcas Montessori — to discuss the possibility of TK on the island and how best to serve local youth.

The ECEI is a five-year collaboration of the three preschools, private funders and advisors. The group’s goal is to ensure all young children receive early childhood education opportunities and are prepared for kindergarten. In a statement, the ECEI called the recent meetings a “healthy, public exchange of ideas between members of the Early Childhood Education Initiative, their supporters and Orcas Island School District staff and board members.”

According to the ECEI: “Participants had to listen to each other’s perspectives as professionals seeking the best solutions for our children and families. They had to figure out their organization’s role in finding those solutions, while they genuinely sought but ultimately did not find a fit between our community’s unique needs and the conditions required to get currently available dollars.”