District 51 changes kindergarten cutoff

Starting this year, children will have to turn 5 years old by July 15 in order to start kindergarten in August in School District 51.

District 51 School Board members voted unanimously Tuesday to move the cut-off for a kindergartner’s fifth birthday from Sept. 15 to July 15. Board members pondered changing the cut-off to Aug. 15 this year and then moving it up to July 15 next year but decided to go with the earlier date after reviewing data presented at the Feb. 4 board meeting. That data showed in part that 39 percent of last year’s third-graders born between July 15 and Sept. 15, 2004 tested in the unsatisfactory range on Transitional Colorado Assessment Program tests in 2012-13, compared to 24 percent for their peers with earlier birthdays and that 11 of the 24 of the District 51 students asked to repeat kindergarten this year had a birthday between July 15 and Sept. 15.

The data was enough to convince board member Jeff Leany changing the cut-off would give students a better chance of keeping up with classmates in later grades. Board member Ann Tisue agreed.

“The pain of thinking these kids moving on and struggling, I don’t want to see that,” Tisue said.

Three audience members testified in support of the change, including Janel Anderson, who taught kindergarten for more than a decade.

“Most children really benefit from one more year to develop tools” like background knowledge and oral language, Anderson said. “Older kindergartners don’t get bored. I see them as being confident and very comfortable.”

Parents can still enroll their children in kindergarten at age 4 but will have to apply for and be accepted to the district’s early access program. The early access application process for 2014-15 closes Feb. 28.

Tuesday’s decision did not come lightly, board member Tom Parrish said. The change may be an inconvenience for some families, especially with kindergarten round-up so close on March 7.

“Bottom line, we have to think about the best interest of students,” Parrish said.


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