A Guide for Planning Transitions to Elementary (PreK-5) School

Who Should Use This Guide? This transition planning guide helps elementary and preschool leaders work with a school team to develop a data-informed transition plan. The plan will support the engagement of families of students, especially students who lost out on significant learning opportunities due to Covid-19, so that students are more likely to attend or participate. The plan will also address longstanding disparities in access to educational resources. 

Planning for the fall and subsequently a year-long transition is an opportunity to use the current situation to build back better.

Why A Pre-K-5 Approach? The experiences of children and their families during preschool lay a foundation for their relationship to their elementary schools. Collaboration between preschool programs and elementary schools builds a community that understands the challenges experienced by families with young children. 

In the elementary grades, parents and other caregivers are crucial partners. During the coronavirus pandemic, in-person attendance will be deeply affected by whether families believe that school is a healthy and safe place for their young children. This will be even more critical if children have contact with elderly or otherwise health-compromised family members.  

The 2020-21 transition back to school will require more attention to taking a trauma-informed and restorative approach to meet the needs of students and families. Activities should be fun, engaging and leverage the joy of seeing young children progress and develop.   

Special attention should be given to new students and families of learners joining a school for the first time. Whether students are entering formal schooling, or transitioning from a preschool or other elementary school, establishing a warm, welcoming relationship is essential.

How Should This Guide Be Used? This guide offers a process for using our Five Key Ingredients of Systemic Change to take stock of your situation, and for creating a plan that builds on the strengths and addresses the challenges in your community. We recommend the following steps.

Five Transition Steps
  • Convene A Transition Team This can be an existing, new or reconfigured team. Team membership should be cross-functional and represent all segments of your school community – including school staff and parent leadership, early childhood providers, health providers, community partners – and reflect your school’s demographics. Ensure the team includes teachers with expertise in special education services, English Language Learners and general education.

  • Review the Five Key Ingredients of Systemic Change Ask team members to first review the description of each key ingredient in the guide so they understand how implementation of each ingredient needs to be adapted to current realities. Click on the key ingredients below to learn more.

    1. Capacity building
    2. Actionable data
    3. Positive engagement
    4. Strategic partnerships
    5. Shared accountability
  • Complete the School Transition Planning Worksheet To assist schools responding to the often overwhelming challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic, we developed a Transition Planning Worksheet. This worksheet can be used to address urgent issues and other factors that need to be considered as you revise, adapt and develop a plan for the fall, and a year-long transition plan. Review the results as a team. It's not meant to be an in-depth analysis of a school's system.

    For a more intensive analysis, consider piloting Elementary School Transition Attendance Analysis Tool (ESTAAT). Used together, the guide and the ESTAAT enable your PreK-5 team to set priorities based upon an analysis of your school’s particular strengths, realities and challenges. 

  • Communicate Your Plans with Your School Community Share your capacity building priorities and activities with the entire school community so everyone can understand how the school is responding to the current reality, and see how they can participate. See this resource page for tips.