Report finds only 1 in 5 Sonoma children ready for kindergarten

SONOMA – Communities all over the state are reporting impacts on enrollment and test scores for school-age children in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, but Sonoma County has released a sobering, detailed report focusing on kindergarteners there and how they are faring post -pandemic.

Only one in five children in Sonoma County were ready for kindergarten when they entered school last fall, according to a report released Wednesday from the county Department of Human Services (DHS). Many of the educational disparities fall along ethnic, racial and economic lines, the report said.

Kindergarten readiness declined in the county for the sixth consecutive year, according to the report entitled “Road to Early Achievement and Development for Youth,” or READY, which was initiated by the county DHS and the First 5 Sonoma County Commission, a body that allocates county funds for early education.

Overall, only 22 percent of Sonoma County children were ready for kindergarten last fall, down from 31 percent the previous year and 41 percent in 2016.

The county said the decline can be attributed to repeated wildfires, floods and the COVID-19 pandemic, all of which the county describes as “emergencies that have disrupted early-learning programs and taken a toll

San Rafael school campus to reopen for programs

The former Short Elementary School in San Rafael will reopen in the fall as an early childhood education center.

“The space will be designed specifically for our youngest learners,” Stephanie Kloos, executive director for elementary education at San Rafael City Schools. “The new playground, the bathrooms and the classes themselves will be sized for kids ages 3, 4 and 5.”

The building in the Gerstle Park neighborhood previously housed kindergarten through fifth grade, but was closed in 2020 because of declining enrollment.

In its new iteration, the site will have three to four transitional kindergarten classes, four half-day early intervention classes for special education students and four preschool classes run by the nonprofit Community Action Marin.

“We will have four preschool classrooms at Short, each focused on school readiness, with 17-20 children enrolled and engaged in learning through play,” Shana Hewitt of Community Action Marin said in an email.

“CAM’s preschool classrooms are funded by county, state and federal sources to provide a comprehensive, whole-family approach to Marin County’s youngest children and their families,” Hewitt said.

Community Action Marin will lease the classroom space from the school district after transferring its operations from San Pedro Elementary School and 215 Mission