Kindergarten, first grade cutoffs debated

February 28, 2006|by KAREN HANNA


By the time she is close to 5 years old, Beth Weber's daughter still could have more than a year to wait for her chance to go to kindergarten.

And though one longtime kindergarten and prekindergarten teacher said she believes students who are the oldest members of their classes often have the advantage, Weber said she believes her daughter might be ready this fall.

When to set the final cutoff date for kindergarten and first-grade entrance eligibility is at the center of discussion about a policy that would establish new guidelines for admission.


At its meeting Feb. 21, the Washington County Board of Education voted 6-1 to accept on first reading a policy affirming new State Board of Education dates for admission to kindergarten and first grade.

Under the policy, children must turn 5 on or before Sept. 1 to be eligible for kindergarten, and they must be 6 on or before Sept. 30 next year and Sept. 1 the following year to be eligible for first grade.

Prekindergartners must be 4 on or before Sept. 1, according to the new state guidelines.

As required by the state, the board's new policy also includes procedures for early enrollment. The window set by the board would allow students born between the kindergarten and first-grade cutoff dates and Oct. 31 to take tests for admission. Students with demonstrated needs could qualify for prekindergarten if their birthdays are on or before Dec. 31.

Board member Bernadette M. Wagner voted against the rules.

Weber said she believes her daughter, who turns 5 in November, should have the chance to take a test to see whether she is ready for kindergarten.

"I still think that if we as a county can offer the opportunity, I don't see why we wouldn't," Weber told the board, which earlier this month tabled the policy during its first discussion on the dates.

The board discussed a final cutoff date as late as Dec. 31.

According to Loretta Mauck, an administrative assistant in the office of student services, the school system had received 17 requests by Monday evening from parents interested in early admission for their prospective kindergartners.

According to Board President W. Edward Forrest, the policy is unlikely to come before the board again for another month. The board has requested input from staff, he said.

The board must approve two readings of new policies for them to go into effect.

Trudy Mackrell-Metz, the program manager for the Judy Center, a program that provides services to young children and their families, said Monday that children often benefit from waiting.

"Typically, the younger children - and you know, every child is different - but typically, the younger child is less mature and typically, the child has more difficulty adjusting to school," Mackrell-Metz said.

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