School board hears concerns regarding kindergarten cutoff

In July, the Warren County School District changed its policy for the minimum age of kindergarten students.

On Monday, the board heard about some research regarding ‘redshirting’ young students.

“We have issues with the date change of the kindergarten entry,” Heather Cathcart Norris said Monday during the curriculum, instruction, and technology committee meeting. “Because of this new policy, we are not given the opportunity to choose for our child.”

She described the policy as “forced redshirting.” She and her husband would have to wait until their daughter, whose birthday is a few days after the new cutoff, is six years old to enroll her in kindergarten.

She said her research into the subject shows “generally, red-shirting children generally harms them.”

“Through our research, it’s shown in brain research that the optimal use of our brain is at age four,” Cathcart Norris said.

Jennifer Stover said her daughter, also with a birthday a few days after the cut-off, will be academically and socially ready when she turns five. “I’m very concerned that I might have to hold her back an entire year,” she said. “I feel that this date is a step backward. I’m very concerned about the boredom that this will create in some of the students.”

“I’m extremely concerned with what might happen if I have to wait until she is six years old” to enroll in kindergarten, Jewel Rozanski said of her daughter.

“Yes, there are positive things for redshirting children,” she said. “There are also plenty of logical and reputable places that have proved that this is not best for everyone.”

“Who knows better than the parents?” Rozanski asked.

“We want kids to have the best possible start that they can,” Superintendent Amy Stewart said. “We want the kids to be as socially and emotionally ready as they can be.”

“Policy isn’t about one child,” Stewart said. “It’s about every child. Sometimes parents have the biggest blind spots.”

Rozanski asked what drove the district to change the policy.

“When we took this on, it started with the pre-school coalition,” Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment Rhonda Decker said.

That group includes various early education professionals, she said. “It started because it was difficult for parents to plan when their children would start pre-school.”

The district’s old policy aligned the age with the start of school — a floating target from year to year.

The members of that group overwhelmingly voted for a cut-off earlier than July 1, Decker said. “When we had a discussion about it with our administrative team, we thought that would be too different from what we had had” and opted for July 1.

She said the group’s research showed that older students were more mature and “not only more ready academically, but socially” and were more likely to succeed and become leaders in school.

Decker said the kindergarten teachers offer differentiated instruction to make sure students are not bored.

Rozanski, who teaches in the district, said she has prepared an early testing policy for the board’s consideration.

Board member Joe Colosimo said he would ask the committee to put a new discussion of the starting age on its agenda for the December committee meetings.

“Empirically, the answer is, ‘we don’t know,'” Colosimo said. “When you can’t say that it harms and you can’t say that it helps, you put the decisions back on the parents.”