When a parent gets denied choice in a private preschool program…

When Ginger4 was denied from a PreK program for not being 5 by a PreK cut-off date of (8/1), I went in and fought with our preschool administration on his behalf. Here was a kid who needed Kindergarten, whose 3s teacher recommended PreK, if not early advancement into Kindergarten, but whose age was prohibited with the district cut-off. Our private preschool chose to align itself with the district cut-off, only allowing children who are already 5 by 8/1 into their PreK program. When challenged, its administrators suggested I go look into other programs. Off I went, making phone calls, taking tours and compiling lists of various programs whose PreK programs had a later cut-off– 12/31 was the most common one out there. When presented with my findings, various excuses were made by our administrators, including one about licensure. As an educator myself, I know where to go to debunk their understanding of the laws, and I did. No response. Quickly I learned our current preschool wasn’t really doing the research necessary to defend their stance on the 8/1 cutoff date.

The majority of research online pointed to PreK programs for old 4-yr-olds. In fact, there was very little discussion about the benefits for a PreK program to solely serve 5-yr-olds– 5 yr olds who, by our local district, are candidates to enter Kindergarten. Why, then, would I not be able to make the opposite decision to advance my child into a private PreK program– especially one that he misses the Kindergarten deadline by a month and ten days? I can understand a public school Kindergarten taking such a hard stance on a cut-off for Kindergarten, and I even understand the reasons behind grade acceleration processes, but for a private (small church) preschool to dig their heels in and not allow a family (whose four kids have attended, and whose parents have supported and advertised their program) to make a decision on whether or not to put their child into a PreK classroom? This baffles me!

In my research, I learned where it gets fuzzy is when preschool programs use the term “PreK” to describe any programming provided before age 5 (Kindergarten-aged children.) This is where I believe it’s up to the parents to decide what is best for their child. In Ginger4’s case, he’d be turning 5 on September 10th… he scored high in his cognitive testing with a psychologist, and I believe would be a perfect candidate for a PreK program. When I described our situation to various preschool and elementary school administrators, and even the gifted education staff within our public district, I was given the response I thought I would… no one understood why our preschool would prohibit Ginger4 from attending their PreK program at age 4 years and 11 months.

I maintain private preschool administrators need to allow parents to make some decisions based on their individual circumstances.

Further, there is a reason our current preschool differentiates between a 4s program and a PreK program… yet, in my discussion and challenge phase with the administration, I was told these programs are synonymous. Yet every family I know whose child went through the PreK program touts about the amount of writing their child was exposed to in PreK– that their child’s preparedness for Kindergarten was on target. I agree– my previous child who experienced PreK had a very different experience than my others who attended a 4s classroom. The fact that our 3s program is mostly play and doesn’t do letter/number recognition goes to show what would be handled in the next sequence of skills in a 4s classroom. And Ginger4 knows his letters and his sounds and could benefit from putting those two skills together in a classroom more advanced and ready to write!

All this research and back and forth has taken its toll on me. I cried quite a bit about leaving a preschool we had spent our last nine years with, but I know I need to find something better for Ginger4. Further, I feel like a sucker for promoting and recommending this program to so many young families in the area. I love the staff at this preschool, but was saddened when the administration took such a hard stance on this PreK issue. Alas, and unrelated to our family situation, a good number of the staff I have loved and cherished have moved on to other jobs. I often wonder if there’s a connection to its leadership. When I step back and look at our situation as an outsider, I think, “Good grief! All this for freakin’ preschool! What in the heck is yet to come?”

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