Q. Dear Brooklyn School Lady,
School districts outside of NYC have earlier age cutoffs for kindergarten. Why can't NYC parents whose children have late fall birthdays request that their children wait a year to start school if they feel that their children aren't ready and they will be the youngest in the class?
A. Here is what parents should keep two in mind. First, kindergarten is not a mandated grade, even though it is common practice for all children attend at five years old (whether it is in their zoned school or not is a topic for another conversation). Secondly, the placement is governed by the Chancellor’s regulations, which allow some discretion to principals.
The Chancellor's Regulations state:
"In New York City, children are required to attend school from age six through the end of the school year in which they turn 17 as set forth below. If no high school diploma has been granted, children may remain in school until the end of the school year in which they turn 21.
a. Children whose sixth birthday falls within the calendar year of admission must be admitted to the first grade or to another appropriate placement.
b. Children whose fifth birthday falls within the calendar year of admission must be admitted to kindergarten whether these children are entering school for the first time or being transferred from another school, if their parents choose to register them.""
This regulation is vague and principals have some discretion. The advice given on the PSP list, which I heartily endorse, is to have a conversation with the principal of your zoned school. For the most part the principals will try and keep the students in a class within a year of each other for many good reasons which they can reassure you about. However, if your child has a very late birthday (the last week of December), was a premie with a late birthday, is unusually small, or has a significant social/developmental issue the principal will be interested to understand your concerns and may possibly act on them.
The tricky phrase is "admitted to first grade or another appropriate placement." That could mean kindergarten if the principal has kindergarten seats available and feels that the parent has made a compelling case. It could also mean that a child who has done an extra year in a private kindergarten or enters the city from a locale that has an earlier age cutoff and will turn 7 within the calendar year can enter first grade. They would not be arbitrarily enrolled in second grade because that wouldn't be an appropriate placement.
Parents should also know that there is no age cutoff wiggle room for gifted and talented programs or public pre-k. The placements are made with very strict consideration about the birth year of the child; the enrollment is not handled at the school level and there is NO room for discussion.
The Brooklyn School Lady is Joyce Szuflita of NYC School Help