The 2014-15 school year won’t start for six more months, but local kindergarten programs are already starting the registration process — and Nevada County families are vying to find the right one for their child.
There are more than 20 options in this community, including many charter schools. Some of those programs have registration deadlines that are approaching quickly.
This early registration window gives schools the time they need to find out how many incoming kindergartners they will need to accommodate, then make room and adjust staffing levels as necessary.
Most schools in our area will accept any student who lives within the geographical boundaries of its district, but charter schools have a pre-defined number of seats available.
While all California schools will have to conform to the new Common Core curriculum guidelines, not all programs are created equally. That’s another factor to take into consideration when choosing the right kindergarten for your child.
Educational focus, as well as the teacher’s role in the classroom, can vary widely. Some schools emphasize the use of technology, whereas others insist on a media-free environment without computers, tablets or other devices.
“The variety you can find is amazing. Our kindergarten is quite different from a traditional program,” said Caleb Buckley, director of the Yuba River Charter School. “It’s probably closer to a home environment.”
“At other schools, you walk into a kindergarten and it’s really more like first grade,” Buckley added.
Yuba River Charter School’s registration date of Feb. 11 has passed. Like many small charters, there’s a waiting list; this can be frustrating for parents who want to place their children in a particular program, but can’t.
Nevertheless, Buckley believes that a family’s choice in schools can be overshadowed by other factors.
“The best predictor of a child’s success is an involved parent, even more so than the academic program that they’re in,” Buckley said. “If the parents (are) involved and committed to the child’s success, that’s going to have a lot more impact than the school.”
Buckley says he always starts off by telling parents that the state of California does not require them to send their kids to kindergarten. For him, the focus is on what families are providing for their students out of school — such as exposure to stories, reading, English language instruction and good nutrition.
“For low-income families, English language learners or kids whose parents just don’t have a stable environment at home, the preschool environment is a place where they can get all those things,” Buckley said.
Still, educators seem to agree that early education can have a profound impact on the learning outcomes of young students.
“There is an extremely large body of research that describes the benefits of a high-quality early learning experience on future success,” said Nevada County Superintendent of Schools Holly Hermansen.
“Early educational programs prepare students for kindergarten readi- ness and success even beyond the primary grades.
“High-quality programs help students develop social, emotional and pre-academic skills that are critical to school success, and in fact, critical to success beyond school.”
For the 2014-15 school year, kindergarten registration is open to children who will be 5 years of age by Sept. 1, 2014.
In order to register, parents might be asked to provide a birth certificate, immunization records and proof of residency, among other things.
For a full list of requirements, registration deadlines and kindergarten programs in Nevada County, contact the office of Nevada County Superintendent of Schools at 530- 478-6400 or go to http://nevco.org/kindergarten/.
To contact staff writer Dave Brooksher, call 530-477-4230 or email dbrooksher@theunion. com.