Explaining Nevada’s new kindergarten enrollment policy (and who is exempt)

By: - December 31, 2021 2:00 am

(Photo by CDC on Unsplash)

Beginning with the upcoming 2022-23 academic year, children in Nevada will have to be 5 years old by the first day of school in order to enroll in kindergarten. But some parents of August- and September-born children will have leeway, according to guidance from the Nevada Department of Education.

Lawmakers during the 2021 legislative session changed the state’s public school enrollment policy. Previously, in order to enroll in kindergarten, children had to be 5 years old by Sept. 30. To enroll in first grade, students had to be 6 years old by Sept. 30. Beginning next school year, children will have to be 5 years old by the first day of school.

For most Silver State students, school begins the second week of August. Clark County School District’s first day is currently scheduled for Aug. 8, 2022. Washoe County School District plans to start the following week, on Aug. 15, 2022.

Over the past decade, the K-12 academic year has crept earlier into the month of August while the eligibility requirements have remained static. State Sen. Scott Hammond (R-Clark) sponsored Senate Bill 102 as a way to realign those disconnected elements, and he pointed to a growing body of academic research that shows better academic and social emotional outcomes in children who are slightly older when they enter kindergarten.

The bill passed both chambers of the Legislature unanimously but has drawn some criticism and created headaches for working families who were counting on their children entering kindergarten based on the previous eligibility requirements. For those parents, the change might result in them paying an additional year of private preschool or daycare costs, which for a 4-year-old in Nevada averages $9,050 annually, or $754 per month, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

In October, the Nevada Department of Education released guidance to school districts and charter schools that exempts students who are currently enrolled in preschool or kindergarten but would be ineligible to enroll in the subsequent grade based on the new law. (Example: A child who turned 5 on Sept. 20, 2021 and is currently enrolled in kindergarten should technically be ineligible to advance to the first gradebecause they will not be 6 years old by the first day of the 2022-23 year.)

Rather than forcing such students to repeat preschool or kindergarten, the DOE advised school districts and charters to allow them to advance, writing in its memo that “it is in the best interest of students who fall within this window (to) be allowed to continue to the next grade level with their cohort.”

The memo specifies that this guidance applies to 4-year-olds who have attended one year of pre-kindergarten and 5-year-olds who have attended one year of kindergarten.

Allegra Demerjian, a public information officer at the DOE, clarified for the Current that the exemption isn’t limited only to students who are currently enrolled in a public school district and ready to advance. If a child born in that affected birthday range is currently enrolled in a private pre-kindergarten or kindergarten program, they too should be allowed to enroll in a public school district for kindergarten or first grade during the 2022-23 school year under the exemption.

The new eligibility requirements established by SB102 apply only to public schools. Private schools will continue to set their own eligibility requirements.

Parents who are adamant about starting their young child in kindergarten before they turn 5 still have the option of enrolling in a private school that will accept them. But they will have to also enroll in private school for first grade, as eligibility for first grade enrollment at public schools mirrors that of kindergarten. That student would be eligible for public school beginning in second grade, as Nevada Revised Statutes do not set eligibility requirements for that grade or any higher grades.

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April Corbin Girnus
April Corbin Girnus

April Corbin Girnus is an award-winning journalist with a decade of media experience. She has been a beat writer at Las Vegas Sun, a staff writer at LEO Weekly, web editor of Las Vegas Weekly and a blogger documenting North American bike share systems’ efforts to increase ridership in underserved communities. An occasional adjunct journalism professor, April steadfastly rejects the notion that journalism is a worthless major. Amid the Great Recession, she earned a B.A. in journalism from the University of Nevada Las Vegas, where she served as editor-in-chief of the student newspaper. She later earned an M.A. in media studies and a graduate certificate in media management from The New School for Public Engagement. A stickler about municipal boundary lines, April enjoys teaching people about unincorporated Clark County. She grew up in Sunrise Manor and currently resides in Paradise with her husband, two children and two mutts.