SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

December 27, 2013

Column: Time to start thinking about kindergarten

Alexa Ogno
The Salem News

---- — The new year is upon us, and parents of 4- and 5-year-olds are thinking about the big changes 2014 will bring for their children. We’re talking about starting kindergarten in September.

Salem Public Schools has announced the date for its annual Kindergarten Information Night. While there are a lot of forms to fill out and dates to keep straight, there is also a handy, one-page summary, including phone numbers for all seven elementary schools, the transportation office and the director of nurses. Perhaps most important is the number for the Parent Information Center, 978-740-1225, which can answer any questions you might have. The Salem Public Schools website (www.salemk12.org) also has all the information and forms under the Family tab.

It may seem complicated, but it’s not impossible. Each application must include the following:

A completed application sheet indicating which three schools you’d like for your child.

Proof that you live in Salem (two housing and/or utility bills).

Proof that your child will be 5 years old by Aug. 31, 2014 (birth certificate, passport or immigration papers).

Proof that your child is immunized and has had a medical check-up in the 12 months prior to the start of school. (Most physicians’ offices can print these free with just a phone call.)

Photo ID for one parent or guardian.

A completed application for Free and Reduced Price Meals. (This allows the Salem Public Schools to balance the socioeconomic makeup of each school.)

A Special Education Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504 Plan, if your child has one.

Families will be notified in early June which school their child is assigned to.

Here is a timeline to assist parents in planning for kindergarten:

Tuesday, Feb 25: Kindergarten Information Night. Get general information about the process. Meet representatives from the schools and various districts programs. Snow date is Feb. 27.

March: School tours available throughout the month. Visit as many schools as you like. Meet some of the teachers, administrators and parents.

April 1: Sibling preference application deadline. If you have children already enrolled in elementary school, the kindergarten application must be submitted by this time to guarantee that the kindergarten student will be in the same school as the older sibling(s).

May 1: General application deadline. Completed applications must be submitted for maximum flexibility of school choices.

June 1: First notifications. All applicants who submitted forms by May 1 will be notified of their school placement.

June 18 and 19: Academic screenings. Subject to change on account of snow days. Incoming kindergartners will be evaluated at their assigned school.

Aug. 15: Second notifications. Applications received between May 1 and Aug. 15 will be placed in the remaining school openings.

Ongoing: Rolling notifications. Any applications received after Aug. 15 will be considered and placed as space allows.

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Alexa Ogno is a member of the Salem Education Foundation board and chairwoman of the Grants Committee. She is the mother of two Horace Mann Lab School students.