Good Beginnings for Kaua‘i’s keiki: early kindergarten registration

Department of Education targets February to March for kindergarten registration. While to some it may seem a bit early to plan for autumn enrollment, there are important reasons for families and schools to plan ahead.

Hawai’i public schools no longer begin school in fall but in late July. Parents with school-aged children or those attending area preschools have already received notice, but others may be new to the island or will have their first child starting school in July.

Registering now for kindergarten is important because:

• The number of registered children determine the number of teachers needed for the next school year.

• Accurate enrollment figures, particularly in kindergarten, are critical to having the most highly qualified teachers begin school with our youngest children.

For example, a school’s spring enrollment count of 40 students will indicate a need for only two kindergarten classes.

However, by the start of school in July, many more students may have enrolled and another teacher is needed. At this late date at the district, state and even at the national levels, the best and brightest in the field of education have already signed teaching contracts elsewhere.

Having an accurate kindergarten count in spring for the new school year in July ensures that our keiki have the very best to start their career as students.

Enrollment in your neighborhood school is quite simple.

Stop by the office to fill out a brief student enrollment form which includes such things as birth date and other basic information.

While health, emergency, and other forms are required before the actual start of school, this early enrollment form secures a place, making you and your child an official member of that school community.

It also helps your family feel welcome.

Each elementary school has a number of events planned, such as camps and orientations to welcome and transition children and family to the school, occurring from May through July. Details of these events are in the school office, you do not want to miss any of these fun activities.

Last year the Hawai‘i Legislature passed into law Junior Kindergarten Act 219. Currently, if your child will be 5 years old by Aug. 1, he or she is enrolled in kindergarten. Children who will turn 5 between Aug. 2 and Dec. 31 are identified (by ID number only) as Jr. kindergarten. It is an age only designation. All children are enrolled in the school’s kindergarten program with the anticipation of moving to first grade the following year.

What are some of the signs of readiness for kindergarten?

Parents may notice or encourage certain behaviors/skills. Schools, in turn, try to anticipate the cultural and age-appropriate needs of young children and prepare a rich environment to help each child succeed.

You may notice some of the following signs of kindergarten readiness:

• Is your child happily excited about starting the “BIG” school, and comfortable being away from you for part of the day?

• Is your child interested in our island world and how things work?

• Is your child interested in “reading” environmental print (i.e. stop sign, McDonald’s, Wal-Mart); interested in writing own name, letters or numbers?

• Does your child demonstrate independence and responsibility by dressing self, and putting things away, etc.?

• Does your child know how to share (i.e. toys, ideas, taking turns), cooperate, and follow simple directions?

• Can your child stay happily engaged in make-believe play, blocks, paints, or listening to a story for 10-15 minutes?

• Can your child express likes/dislikes; ideas and feelings; and right from wrong in an age-appropriate way?

While all of these skills or behaviors may not be apparent, the presence or interest suggests an eagerness to begin formal education.

Starting school is one of the major transitions in life. It is the first step on the path of self-realization of goals and aspirations.

Enrolling your child early begins a rich partnership with your neighborhood school, providing your child with the guidance and support to become the very best, he or she can be..

For more ideas, information and resources on how to understand, help and enrich your child’s development, call Anna Peters, Kaua’i Good Beginnings Coordinator at 632-2114 or Cathy Shanks, PATCH at 246-0622.

• Kaua’i Good Beginnings Council Public Awareness Committee comprised of K.I.D.S. School, PATCH, CFS-Healthy Start & Head Start, with input from the Department of Education, provides this bi-weekly column exclusively to readers of The Garden Island.

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