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We all remember the fun songs, story times and art projects in kindergarten. But these days, the young students are expected to do much more. And, if your kindergartener is born in the summer, it can be hard for them to keep up.

A handful of area schools offer a program to make sure even the youngest of students are ready to start school.

Students sing songs, study numbers and letters and create are work in Kristen Abbey’s classroom. It’s a busy place. She says, "We're kind of right in the middle between preschool and kindergarten."

Her class is Developmental Kindergarten at Timber Ridge Elementary School in Johnston.  57 students are enrolled this year, which is about 11.5% of the district's kindergarten class. Abbey says, "A lot of parents feel their child just isn't quite ready for kindergarten, maybe social skill wise or pre-academically. They just want that extra year to get that boost, so when they go to Kindergarten they feel successful and ready to roll."

The Johnston Community School District started offering the program last year at the request of parents. It's a half day class designed for students with summer birthdays. Associate Superintendent Bruce Amendt says, "It would give them an additional year to mature and develop before they started all day Kindergarten and then 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade."

The extra year can help the youngest of students because Kindergarteners have big academic goals to meet. Mrs. Abbey says, "It's a lot more academic, a lot more rigorous, a lot less free time, and play time than when we remember. They're reading by the end of the year, so it's a big challenge."

Johnston school leaders say parents decide to enroll their kids in Developmental Kindergarten. There is no readiness assessment. Amendt says the program doesn't cost the district extra money.

A couple other metro schools offer a DK program, but the Iowa Department of Education does not track how many schools offer this statewide.