Newark Charter School will only accept five year olds into their kindergarten program

Over the weekend, Rep. John Kowalko emailed me concerning a family whose choice application was pulled from the lottery because their daughter did not turn five during a specific time frame. They were told that they would not be allowed to apply to kindergarten for the 2016-2017 school year. Newark Charter School’s board recently voted to change their admission’s policy pertaining to students who apply to Newark Charter School for kindergarten. Prior to the board’s vote, children had to be five years old at the time of admission. Below is Newark Charter School’s new policy:

All Kindergarten applicants must turn five years of age in the period from September 1, 2015 to August 31, 2016 to apply for KN in the 2016-2017 lottery

I am not sure what Newark Charter School’s reasoning is for changing their policy. There are many reasons why a family may decide to hold their child back a year from starting kindergarten. Many children have late summer birthdays, a disability, or some children just need that additional year.

This family’s child has a physical disability which impacts her fine motor skills and limits the use of her hands and arms. During a parent/teacher conference last spring, the pre-school recommended that the child be retained for an additional year. The family reached out to their feeder school and the feeder school had no objection.

The family reached out to Newark Charter School and it is my understanding the Board of Directors and the Department of Education stated that Newark Charter School followed all proper procedures.

Over the weekend, I wrote to Secretary Godowsky about this family and my concerns over Newark Charter School’s new policy only allowing students who turn five to be entered into the lottery.  I asked Secretary Godowsky if Newark Charter School’s new admission’s policy had been approved by their authorizer?  I did some researching of Title 14 and found some language that I thought would be helpful to the family –Title 14 – Chapter 27 allowed a family to delay kindergarten one year if the child had been evaulated.

Title 14 – Chapter 27 – School Attendance allows for a family to request a one year delay if the child has been evaluated. The family had their child evaluated the year before, so I assumed this part of the code would apply to them. I pointed this out to all parties involved.

The child was entered into last night’s lottery, she is on the waiting list. I am not sure who made the decision to add her name to the lottery and I am not sure why they made the decision — I am just glad the student was entered.  I still have an issue about Newark Charter School’s current policy. Why was the change made? Is it legal? If it is legal, is Newark Charter School obligated to point out the section of Delaware Code to applicants that there is an exception to their policy? I am still trying to get my questions answered.

ATTENDING A PUBLIC SCHOOL SHOULD NOT BE THIS DIFFICULT. If the family did not reach out to Rep. Kowalko, their child would have not been entered into the lottery.

(c) The following provisions shall be applicable to the administration of subsection (a) of this section in regard to compulsory attendance in the kindergarten for a child age 5 years:

 (1) If a child is a resident of the State at the time of that child’s eligibility for admission to the kindergarten at age 5, the parents, guardian or legal custodian of that child may request that school authorities evaluate the child’s readiness for attendance and may request a delay of 1 year in that attendance. However, admission to first grade will be authorized only after schoolauthorities evaluate the child’s readiness for attendance.
 
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