Most school districts are required by law to offer a kindergarten program for interested parents.

Districts vary on when they begin taking sign-ups for kindergarten. Most begin pre-registration in early spring for the following fall. The number of hours your child will spend in school each day varies from district to district, although the state requires that students complete a minimum number of hours per year.

Here are some general guidelines on what is required for kindergarten enrollment. Be sure to check with your local school district for their specific requirements, too.

In most states your child must be at least 5 years old to be eligible for kindergarten.

Although most states are fairly strict in enforcing the deadline date (if your child is not 5 by the designated deadline, he must wait until the following year to start kindergarten), some school districts may allow parents to enroll their children if they turn 5 in the middle of the school year. Most districts choose not to make an exception for these students because of space constraints and possible complications around promotion to first grade. If you feel strongly that your child should start kindergarten and his birthday does not meet the state deadline, it’s worth contacting the school district office to see if they will make an exception.

If your child meets these characteristics, she will likely be granted early admission:

  • The child’s mental age should be between 14-16 months greater than his or her chronological age as determined by standardized tests.
  • The child’s total IQ should be at least 130.
  • The child should possess social and emotional characteristics that will allow him to behave in the way expected of kindergarten students.
  • The school’s psychologist recommends admission.

You have to fill out registration and emergency medical referral forms.

Check with your local district for their requirements.

You may be asked to provide the following:

  • Proof of your child’s age and identity: either a birth certificate or another reliable document stating the child’s identity and age (such as a passport, school ID card, school record, report card, military ID, hospital birth record, adoption record or baptismal certificate) If you need another copy of your child’s birth certificate, see Vital Records Information.
  • Proof of residence, such as driver’s license, voter/motor registration card, utility bill, rent statement, income tax return statement, proof of home ownership (including a mortgage statement) or any official document showing both your name and address.
  • Records of vaccination and immunization against specified diseases. Check with your school district to find out which immunizations are required.

You may also contact your district to find out how to apply for exemption from vaccinations for religious or medical reasons.

  • Child’s social security card. Some districts will assign a student ID number if you choose not to provide the social security number. Ask about your district’s policy.
  • Lead screening. In most districts you will need to bring either lead test results or documentation from a physician stating that the child is at low risk. The test or document must date within a year from the start of school.
  • Tuberculosis test. Some districts require results of a tuberculosis test or a letter from a physician certifying that the child is low risk.
  • Proof of physical examination. Some districts require you to provide proof that your child has had a physical examination within one year prior to the beginning of school.

Making the transition to kindergarten

The No Child Left Behind Act requires schools nationwide to develop a transition plan to help children move smoothly from early childhood programs to elementary school. Schools are also required to provide information on developmental stages and what to expect in kindergarten. Check with your local school district about receiving this information.

Additional resources

To find out more about your school choice alternatives in California, check the School Choice Center.

For more information about kindergarten, in California consult your local school district or check the Kindergarten Overview and the Elementary Education Overview from the California Department of Education Web site.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children Web site for more information and resources.