District eyes new kindergarten cutoff date

by Melissa Martin

May 15 school board meeting

In light of changing kindergarten requirements, Brecksville-Broadview Heights Schools Superintendent Jeff Harrison announced that the district will reconsider the cutoff date for kindergarten registration.

Harrison said the school district has a Sept. 30 cutoff date, which means incoming kindergarten students must be 5 years old by Sept. 30. But nearby districts have changed the date to Aug. 1 to make sure kindergarteners have a better chance to succeed.

“There is a big difference between an Aug. 1 and Sept. 30 cutoff date for kindergarten with the increase in rigor we have seen in kindergarten over the years and the increasing amount of standards they have to cover,” Harrison told the school board. “There are pros and cons to both options.”

Harrison said that in kindergarten screenings, teachers are increasingly noting developmental issues and told the administration that it may be beneficial for teachers and students to move back the date.

“They are the ones who are doing the work every single day,” Harrison said. “They are the ones in the classroom who know it best.”

Harrison said he is not making a recommendation either way at this time, but he believes that holding an educated discussion of the topic needs to be on the board’s radar.

“This is something we need to start having conversations about,” he said. “The rigor [in kindergarten] is increasing. This is not the kindergarten I attended.”

Harrison asked board member Eva O’Mara, who served as principal at the former Highland Drive Elementary School, for her input. She said from her experience, moving the date back to Aug. 1 would be beneficial for staff and kindergarteners.

“We had the conversation many times and I think it would be a wise move,” she said.

Harrison said that if the decision is made to change the date, any recommended changes would have to have “a long runway.”

“As parents you have that date in mind when your son or daughter is going to start kindergarten so this is not something you want to do last minute or have a knee-jerk reaction to,” he said.

If the district decides to change the date, Harrison assured the board there would be plenty of time leading up to the date so that no one is caught off guard.

Cell phone policy

The district will have a discussion regarding the use of student cell phones in accordance with Ohio H.B. 250, which was recently signed by Gov. Mike DeWine.

Every school board is now required by the state to develop a policy regarding student cell phone use during school hours. The idea is to limit cell phone use and distractions. School districts have until July 1 to approve their policies.

“We currently have a policy on the books that addresses this but obviously this is a great time to take and review our current policy to see what additional steps need to be taken,” Harrison said.

The district was expected to address the matter at the June board meeting.

Enrollment update

Harrison said kindergarten enrollment appears to have flatlined. To date, 222 students have registered for kindergarten in the fall.

“We’re about 17-20 kids behind where we were last year at this time,” he said. “There will be students who enroll between now and the first day of school and people who will enroll the week prior, but right now, we are trending to be in that 250 range the enrollment studies have predicted.”

Harrison said a grade that will experience an increase every year is first grade. District families, he said, often choose other kindergarten options then move their children back to the BBH schools for first grade.

He said the district has nine new students enrolled in first grade for fall, which was anticipated by enrollment forecasts.

Harrison said the district also tracks ninth grade, because students often return to the district from private schools for high school. He said eight new incoming freshmen have registered for fall classes.

“Our enrollment is holding pretty steady, but we’re really keeping an eye on that kindergarten number just to make sure that those trend numbers continue in the way they seem to be,” he said. ∞