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Dear Legal Mailbag:
As the principal of an elementary school, I have been getting a
bunch of questions from parents who are sending their children to
kindergarten next month. Some of these children have not yet
reached age five, and these parents are anxious that somehow we
won’t admit their children to kindergarten now because of some
change in the law.
We are prepared to admit all eligible kindergarteners, and I am
confused by their anxiety. But they are sincere in their concerns,
and I want to provide some reassurance. Does Legal Mailbag have any
advice for me in responding to these parent concerns?
The concern expressed by parents of incoming kindergarten
students is presumably based on incomplete information. In the 2023
legislative session, the General Assembly made a significant change
in the law regarding eligibility for admission to public school.
However, parents of incoming kindergarten students do not have to
worry about this change in the law.
Students are currently eligible for school accommodations if
they reach the age of five on or before January 1 in the school
year. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 10-15c. Early admission may also be
required because of the special education needs of the child. The
statute has also long provided that a child younger than five on or
before the first day of January may be admitted by formal vote of
the board of education. Accordingly, the parents of children who
will reach age five by January 1, 2024 have nothing to worry about
this year, and you can tell those parents that Legal Mailbag said
Effective July 1, 2024, there are significant changes. The date
for admission to kindergarten is pushed back to September 1.
Moreover, starting July 1, 2024, boards of education will not vote
on requests for early admission. Rather, a student may be admitted
early “(1) upon a written request by the parent or guardian of
such child to the principal of the school in which such child would
be enrolled, and (2) following an assessment of such child,
conducted by such principal and an appropriate certified staff
member of the school, to ensure that admitting such child is
developmentally appropriate.” Conn. Gen. Stat. §
10-15c(a) as amended by Section 3 of Public Act 23-159, as amended by Section 1 of
Public Act 23-208.
As described above, the new law shifts early admission decisions
from boards of education to school principals, who (with “an
appropriate certified staff member of the school”) must now
conduct assessments of school readiness when parents request early
enrollment of their child. As you might imagine, there are
significant questions about how this will all work next year, and
last month, the Office of Early Childhood and the State Department
of Education provided some guidance. “Minimum School Age To Enroll in School“
(OEC/SDE July 7, 2023). Legal Mailbag notes that this letter to
superintendents and early care and education providers states that
“both agencies will seek extensive input from many
stakeholders and work collaboratively to develop detailed guidance
and implementation recommendations.” That guidance and
recommendations of these two agencies will be helpful as school
districts implement the new statute next year. Stay tuned!
Originally appeared in the CAS Weekly
Originally published August 10, 2023.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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