Kindergarteners 'Jump Start' Into School year

Jump Start Kindergarten
Children in Corinne Funderburk's Kindergarten Jump Start class take a lunch break. The program is new for the Umatilla School District and is designed to get children ready for kindergarten.

From identifying colors to lining up by the classroom door, 40 Umatilla 5-year-olds are getting a “jump start” at the 2013-14 school year this month in Umatilla.

The district opened its “Kindergarten Jump Start” program on Tuesday. Funded with a $5,000 grant from the Oregon Community Foundation, the three-week class is open to all incoming kindergarten students in the Umatilla School District.

“Our hope is we’ll be able to build routines and work on kindergarten readiness skills to help get our kids ready for where they need to be,” McNary Heights Elementary School Principal Bob Lorence said. “This is something we’re trying brand new, but if we can see success in it, it’s something we would consider bringing back.”

School and district officials have worked with the InterMountain ESD and Umatilla-Morrow Head Start for about a year to develop Kindergarten Jump Start. The program is intended to help students meet new state standards for kindergarten readiness, including in basic reading and math.

Two of the district’s kindergarten teachers helped develop the program, and two teachers – Corinne Funderburk and Paula Trueax – began teaching jumpstart classes on Tuesday.

Kinder Jump Start
Along with learning their shapes and colors, students in Kindergarten Jump Start also learn how to line up single file.
Lorence said about 40 students have signed up for the program so far, including a handful of students who registered during the kick-off week. The school will open a third session of Kindergarten Jump Start if enough students register.

“We haven’t really done any advertising for it – this is just word-of-mouth,” Lorence said. “Parents talk to each other and then start going, ‘If that child is in school, why isn’t mine?’ It’s not mandatory, but we’re encouraging as many of our kids and parents to participate as possible.”

About 80 students have already registered for kindergarten in the Umatilla School District, but that number will also increase as the first day of school approaches.

For McNary Heights teachers, including Trueax, the program is the realization of a longtime vision.

“We’re so happy they were able to get funding for it,” Trueax said Tuesday during a quick lunch break. “This is really great for the kids, and it’s something I’ve wanted to see for a long time.”

Even on the first day of Jump Start, Trueax said she was already pleased with the program and the students’ interaction.

“It’s going really well,” she said. “The students are great. They’re lining up, they can count to five, and they know the three basic shapes. They can’t really sit still for story-time yet, but we’re going to work on that.”

Through the class, students will practice reading skills, such as identifying letter sounds, colors and interacting with their peers. The Jump Start program also allows the 5-year-olds to learn the layout and routines of the school while the “bigger kids” are still on summer vacation, and it provides the students a chance to test the waters of being away from home.

Teacher said only three children spent the first few minutes of the day crying for their parents after being dropped off.

“This is a way to get them into the routine, get them used to school before the school year starts,” Lorence said. “It’s just a great way to jump start kindergarten, a great way to jump start the new year, and we’re excited.”

The class will run from July 30-Aug. 16, in conjunction with the district’s summer school program, and students will then have a week vacation before the regular school year begins Aug. 26.