Building Bridges Into Kindergarten


The transition into kindergarten is one of the most complex and challenging steps in a child’s life. Experience in preschool can help set the stage for a successful transition, but many families don’t have access to early childhood education. Regardless, kids often struggle to adjust to the rhythms and expectations of a classroom.

Forty-five percent of all young children in the county are children of color, yet they account for 70% of all children living in poverty. Families of color face steep barriers integrating into systems that have historically failed to serve them well. And while nearly 25% of local kindergarten students are chronically absent from school, those rates are as high as 53% for some communities of color. Missing school means missing out on learning, and by third grade, fewer than one in four local students of color read at grade level.



We are working with teams at three schools to develop holistic supports that help kids thrive in kindergarten. Head Start and kindergarten teachers are teaming up to support a “warm handoff” for
families by aligning their communication about classroom expectations and organizing early visits to kindergarten classes. Community-based organizations work with schools to organize summer bridge programs. And neighborhood health clinics are partnering with schools to help meet families’ physical and behavioral health needs.

2019-20 School Teams:

  • Boise-Eliot/Humboldt Elementary School in partnership with Albina Head Start
  • Davis Elementary School in partnership with Mt. Hood Community College Head Start
  • North Gresham Elementary School in partnership with Mt. Hood Community College Head Start



3 kindergarten classrooms at Davis have teamed up with the in-house Head Start class to build a unified “Davis Community.” Fourth graders visit Head Start students to help them learn reading skills while also boosting their own confidence as leaders. Relationships mean connection, and the school team is monitoring attendance and engagement for both groups.

35 kindergarten and Head Start families at Davis took part in a survey on sleep habits and through a partnership with Kaiser Permanente the team organized an event to inform families about the connection between sleep and learning.

3 kindergarten teachers at Boise-Eliot/Humboldt are joining Head Start’s annual spring home visits to build early relationships with the families of their incoming students.


“Having a direct connection with Head Start and kindergarten teachers is how Kaiser Permanente cares for our youngest students and their families. Co-designing supports and being proactive about the needs of students and caregivers ensures that our community’s kids and families have more supports to ensure their success.”

– Elizabeth Engberg, Manager – Health and Education Initiatives, Kaiser Permanente