Kindergarten enrollment: New changes and how they affect your child

A recently enacted Michigan law is changing the minimum age required for Kindergarten enrollment. Find out more about the changes, when your child can be enrolled and what to do if your child misses the new cut-off.

Most school districts will soon begin Kindergarten enrollment for the 2013-14 school year. For many years in Michigan, all children with birthdays on or before Dec. 1 of that year were eligible to attend Kindergarten. However, this “cut-off date” was historically later than most other states. A recently enacted Michigan law will change the date, gradually phasing in an earlier “cut-off  date” and bringing Michigan more in-line with other states.

Many parents have had questions and confusion about how this changing date will affect their child’s entry to Kindergarten. The current academic school year, 2012-13, was the last year with the ‘old’ cut-off date of Dec. 1. The changes will phase in as out-lined below:

  • For the 2013-14 school year, children must be 5-years-old by Nov. 1
  • For the 2014-15 school year, children must be 5-years-old by Oct. 1
  • For the 2015-16 school year, children must be 5-years-old by Sept. 1

Do parents have options if their children is not eligible for enrollment? Michigan State University Extension says yes, they do. In fact, parents or legal guardian’s have the right to make the final decision of when to enroll their child (who is age five by Dec. 1).

However, in order to do so, parents must apply for a waiver. The guidelines of how and when to do so vary depending on certain circumstances. Children who are currently residing in the school district must submit an application for a waiver no later than June 1, before the beginning of the school year. Children who move into the school district after June 1 must submit notification no later than Aug. 1, again, before the beginning of the school year.

The look of the applications and the exact process may vary from district to district. Once the district receives the application for the waiver, the district can then make a recommendation to the parent or legal guardian as to whether or not the child should be enrolled early, and if the district feels the child is ready for school. However, regardless of the districts recommendation, the parent or guardian will be able to make the final decision to enroll or to wait for the following year.

What does school readiness look like?  Although many people think of school readiness as academic preparedness, schools are seeking a different set of readiness skills. These skills, generally referred to as “social and emotional health” skills are those related to the ability to attend, follow directions, play well with others, take turns and be able to take care of one’s own needs (toileting, dressing, etc.). Research shows us that high quality pre-school programs provide one the best opportunities to prepare your child for Kindergarten and their academic career.

For questions regarding your child’s enrollment in Kindergarten and their waiver process, contact your local school district. For more information, download this “Ready for Kindergarten?” flyer from West Shore ESD.

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