The Board of Education last week unanimously approved a revised policy regarding kindergarteners, following a new state law that takes effect in the 2024-25 school year.
Under the law, children must be five years old by Sept. 1, 2024 in order to start kindergarten that year, though children who do not meet that cutoff date may still be admitted into kindergarten with a written request from a parent or guardian and school “assessment” to determine that the admission would be developmentally appropriate for the child.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bryan Luizzi noted during the Board’s regular meeting Nov. 20 that the change effectively shifts the age of eligibility for kindergarten from children who turn five before Dec. 31 to Sept. 1.
“We wanted to put something in place that honored the requests of the families and the parents who know their children best in this,” he said at the meeting, held in the Wagner Room at New Canaan High School. “So we put a system in where those parents can send us a letter to the principal, expressing their interest for the child to attend kindergarten if they’re born after September 1st. So if [born] September 2nd to December 31st, if they express interest in writing, then the principal will schedule a meeting with the child and the parents. They can meet together. They’ll talk about the milestones… It’s what most children do by age five. And they’ll use that as a basis for the discussion with the parents about the child and the child’s progression. And then after that conversation, if the parents would still like their child to enroll, they’ll be able to enroll and get started in kindergarten. So we wanted to reduce the friction as much as possible. We have to be true to the legislation, which requires an ‘assessment.’ We didn’t feel it was right to be giving an assessment to a four-year-old, like a written assessment or otherwise, so we thought using these milestones as a guide for the conversation—that’s the assessment, so to speak. That’s what we’re going to use this first year. And we anticipate that it’s flexible enough for families to make the decision that they think is best for the child.”
The district does not anticipate many changes as a result of the revised policy “because we think that right now, families generally will enroll their child if they feel that it’s appropriate, and not if they don’t,” Luizzi said.
“But, we have to live through it for a year to make sure,” he added.
The district “will be revisiting this in a year after we have an opportunity to see how it works, and see how the meetings go and the decisions are,” Luizzi said.
Board of Ed Chair Hugo Alves, Vice Chair Erica Schwedel, Secretary Matt Campbell and members Brendan Hayes, Lara Kelly, Phil Hogan, Matt Wexler, Penny Rashin and Julie Toal voted 9-0 in favor of the revised policy. The Board’s Governance Committee had already drafted an initial version of the updated policy for the full elected body to review. The vote followed a second read. (According to the New Canaan Public Schools website, the Governance Committee’s members recently included Rashin as well as former Board of Ed Chair Katrina Parkhill and member Bob Naughton, both of whom have since come off of the school board.)
Campbell asked prior to the vote what recourse parents would have if a school principal has a different opinion regarding their child’s appropriateness for kindergarten.
“I guess the issue is the optics of, certainly everyone has an eye on enrollment, especially kindergarten enrollment,” he said. “And just so the parents realize that this is a completely objective evaluation and not capacity constraint that’s affecting their child.”
Luizzi responded that “the final say will be with the parents with this policy.”
“So after we meet, we’ll be sharing these milestones with the parents, but asking them to make the determination of whether or not they feel their child’s ready given this context,” he said. “And if they feel they are, they’ll be able to enroll their child.”