Vail Daily column: Start of an academic journey | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily column: Start of an academic journey

Jason E. Glass
Valley Voices

Editor’s note: This article is co-written with Shelley Smith, Eagle County Schools director of early childhood education.

This time of year many children and families are preparing to begin their academic journey and are attending their school’s kindergarten open house.

While the transition into kindergarten is filled with excitement, many do not fully understand the importance of this experience for children and families. A positive transition into the kindergarten has been found to have long-term correlation with academic achievement, the level of family involvement in their child’s educational experience and the social-emotional well-being for the child.

Here in Eagle County, when we learned that nationally 48 percent of children do not have a successful transition into kindergarten, which can result into up to six weeks of delay in a child’s academic progress, we knew we needed to take action to ensure a successful transition in this pivotal time.

Thankfully, we weren’t alone in that journey. As part of a comprehensive effort to guarantee a successful kindergarten transition, Eagle County Schools won grant funding through the Temple Hoyne Buell Foundation to develop a comprehensive Kindergarten Transition Plan for Eagle County students.

We are committed to the success of all of our students and this commitment extends well beyond the walls of our district classrooms. The comprehensive Kindergarten Transition Plan includes all of the early childhood providers in our area, not just the preschool programs in our community schools.

Also, a community-wide work group has been established and is meeting monthly to assure the transition plan meets the needs of the children and families regardless of the program they attend. This group includes over 20 members including kindergarten teachers, private providers, Youth Foundation staff, local Early Childhood Council members, Eagle County staff and Eagle County School District preschool teachers.

We are currently recruiting families entering kindergarten in the 2015-2016 program year to join this work group. Anyone interested in helping can contact Shelley Smith, director of early childhood education, at shelley.smith@eagleschools.net.

In February, this group met for the first time and developed the primary goals for their work. We will move beyond the current practice of providing a few isolated events such as visiting the classroom and meeting the teachers, to including research based foundational components of a successful transition, with a focus on duration and intensity of activities to better support children and families.

To achieve this goal the group identified the need to focus on increasing continuity between early childhood programs and the kindergarten classroom. This will be achieved by facilitating two-way communication, collaborative training and maximizing community resources across all preschool programs.

The work of this group is exciting not only for the positive impact it will have on the children and families entering kindergarten, but also because it is just one example of how when schools and community work together, we are much more powerful.

Look for more examples of collaborative work and programs launching in our community. One such example is InteGreat!, a community coalition of people and organizations in Eagle County working together to create a coordinated system that effectively supports health and learning for all children and youth. This and other winning examples of people coming together to face challenges head on are what makes our community strong and responsive to the needs of its families.

Jason E. Glass is the superintendent of Eagle County Schools. He can be reached at jason.glass@eagleschools.net.