Whether it's the first day of kindergarten or a transfer to a new school, you and your child must meet certain requirements that require advance preparations. For example, you must determine the school start date, complete registration paperwork, obtain immunization records and meet district- or school-specific requirements. School districts and individual schools often maintain websites with the necessary information or provide “kindergarten roundups” to educate parents about requirements. If you've moved, find out where your child stands scholastically to ensure she is going into the right grade.
School Entry and Legal Issues
Federal law requires that schools provide equal access to students for public elementary and secondary education, according to the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education. School districts cannot maintain policies that prohibit or discourage children on the basis of race, color, national origin or citizenship, for example. However, schools may require proof of residency such as a utility bill with your name and address or a lease agreement.
Contact the school district and the school to which you plan to send your child well in advance of the school year to determine what kind of documentation you need. If your child is transferring, you may need a copy of the previous school transcript. When you've had to make a move in the middle of the school year with little advance notice, transferring can be more complex; contact the new school as soon as possible to find out what you need.
School districts typically have a minimum age requirement for each grade level. Some individual schools may allow latitude depending on your child’s birthday or school readiness. For example, 5 is usually considered the minimum age for kindergarten. Note age cutoff dates, which might require a child to turn 5 by a certain date, such as Aug. 31 of the current year, to qualify for kindergarten. In some states, a school district might be able to waive age requirements if your younger child's assessment clearly indicates he is ready to enter kindergarten or transfer to a higher grade.
Different forms of documentation may be acceptable depending on the school district or school. For example, while proof of age is typically required, the actual documentation could be a birth certificate, a passport, a baptismal certificate, a state-issued ID or an entry in the family bible. In some states such as North Carolina, a parent’s affidavit or physician’s certificate attesting the child’s age are also acceptable. You must also have a copy of the child’s immunization records or proof that the child is not required to be immunized. The parent or guardian might be required to provide a photo ID.
Schools come in many forms. In addition to public schools, you may have the option of private schools, parochial schools or charter schools for your child. Admission requirements may also vary in these schools. No matter what type of school you choose, begin your preparations early. The spring of the year before your child enters school or transfers to a new school -- or as soon as you learn you're moving -- is a good time to start. It’s also wise to schedule your actual enrollment appointment as early as possible; if there is a problem or you must find additional documentation, you need plenty of time before the school year starts. (ref 5)