Meeting set to discuss kindergarten policy change

Instructional aide Kay Gehrett, center, helps 6-year-old Aaron Muniz, right, while Diego Dolores, 5, adds his own commentary to his book during the writers’ workshop exercise in afternoon kindergarten at Chipeta Elementary School Tuesday.

Parents with questions about School District 51’s newly changed kindergarten entrance policy are invited to attend a meeting with district elementary school personnel from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. tonight at the Emerson building at 930 Ute Ave.

District 51 School Board members voted 5-0 Feb. 18 to change the cut-off date for a student to turn 5 before entering kindergarten. Starting in the 2014-15 school year, kids have to have a fifth birthday on or before July 15 in order to enroll in kindergarten for the upcoming school year. The deadline to turn 5 had been Sept. 15 under old board policy.

Numerous calls from parents prompted the district to plan tonight’s meeting, according to Lesley Rose, District 51 executive director of academic achievement in elementary schools.

“We knew it would be emotional and we knew it would be a big deal but we didn’t know it would be as emotional and widespread as it appears to be,” Rose said of the board’s decision.

Parents’ most common questions, Rose said, have focused on what they can do now that their child won’t make the cutoff for kindergarten and whether there’s any way around the new deadline. There isn’t a way around the new rule, Rose said, with the exception of the early access program for 4-year-olds. The early access application deadline ends Friday and students must be tested and be able to write and count objects up to 10, know rhyming sounds, recognize a dozen words by sight, know how to blend sounds, and be able to write their name and recognize upper- and lower-case letters in order to be considered for the program.

The district’s elementary office recommended changing the cut-off in 2015-16 in order to avoid disappointing students who already had their sights set on kindergarten this fall or upsetting parents who will now have to decide whether to put students in a private school, spend another year in preschool or day care or try to get into the early access program for 4-year-olds. But board members decided against a transitional plan that would have moved the cut-off to Aug. 15 this year and July 15 next year after reviewing data from the district’s elementary schools office at a Feb. 4 workshop.

“It’s hard for me to think of waiting when you’re going to impact those kids” board member Ann Tisue said.


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