If Your Child Starts Kindergarten in the Fall.
You want your child to get the best start. That’s why it’s so important to register in the Spring, long before school begins.
Why register now?
- Kindergarten is a child’s first school experience. You want it to be pleasant–not last-minute and chaotic. Your child needs to be comfortable with the school and the teacher
- All the necessary paperwork is in
- You have time to secure and submit the needed records so there’s no rush or problem getting the necessary information.
- The school is prepared
- Schools plan in the spring and need to know how many teachers to hire and how many supplies they’ll need. They often provide screenings to ensure that the child receives the best learning experience and resources.
- You know about school policies, special programs, activities, and services
- You understand the school’s policies, procedures and schedules. Some schools have summer programs to help children get ready for school. There may be school supply giveaways. Or your child may qualify for special services to give them an extra boost.
- You, your child, the teacher and the school avoid last-minute stress!
How do I register?
- Contact your local school district. You’ll find contact information for your Cuyahoga County district here. Or call 2-1-1 to bcontact information for your district here.e connected with your district.
What will I need?
Most schools require:
- Birth certificate: available in Cuyahoga County from the City of Cleveland Bureau of Vital Statistics or online here
- Immunization records: from the child’s doctor or clinic
- Proof of residence: *Varies by district. Driver’s license, state ID or passport plus 2 of these: utility bill, rental agreement, mortgage, deed, tax statement, payroll form, etc.
- Guardianship records: *Varies by district. Driver’s license, state ID or passport plus 2 of these: utility bill, rental agreement, mortgage,deed, tax statement, payroll form, etc. * May need to be notarized.
What can I do to help the school prepare for my child?
For your child to have the best kindergarten experience, it’s important to let the school know as much as possible about your child in advance. When you complete this Help Us Get to Know Your Child form, you’ll be giving your child’s school and kindergarten teacher a head start. If your child is in a preschool, early learning, Head Start or child care program, please have the past year’s teacher complete this Transition Summary Form with your input. These forms go to your child’s new school.
How can I help my child get ready for kindergarten?
Kindergarten is your child’s first school experience. There’s much you can do to help him or her get the very best start. You’ll find a wealth of information—great books for your kids, information for you on preparing your child for kindergarten, how to find out-of-school time care and much more on our Resource page.
Do you need help with school supplies?
For information on organizations that sometimes offer assistance, call United Way’s 2-1-1.
Are you looking for out-of-school time care, child care or pre-school for younger children?
Contact Starting Point at 216-575-0061 or www.starting-point.org
What is Universal Pre-Kindergarten?
Find out about Universal Pre-Kindergarten.
Other Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How old does my child need to be to attend kindergarten?
Typically, a child will start kindergarten at age 5, and usually that means that they have turned 5 either by August 1 or September 30 of their first school year. According to law (Ohio Revised Code 3321.01), a child must be in school by age 6. Call your school district (dial 2-1-1 for contact information) to learn about your district’s age-eligibility date.
What if my child is younger than 5, but I think he’s ready to attend kindergarten now?
Early admission to kindergarten is possible, and is usually open to students who will turn 5 after the school’s specified age-eligibility date (usually September 30) but before the end of the calendar year, and who meet accelerated eligibility requirements. Each school district should have an Academic Acceleration Policy for Advanced Learners that will help define the rules for this in your area. Call your school district (dial 2-1-1 for contact information) to learn about your options.
What if my child is the typical age for kindergarten, but I think she could benefit from waiting another year to start?
Some parents choose to delay their child’s entry into kindergarten. You might hear this referred to with the sports term “redshirting,” the practice of keeping an athlete out of competition for a year to extend their eligibility and give them time to develop their skills. Just like early entry, this is a decision that will impact the child’s first year of school and will echo through all subsequent grades. According to the Ohio Ready Schools Initiative, schools should be ready to meet your child at his/her developmental level. Kindergarten teachers are prepared to begin working with your child according to his abilities at the time he is eligible for kindergarten. If your child is enrolled in a preschool program, please discuss your child’s readiness with his/her preschool teachers. You can also discuss the advantages and disadvantages with a principal and/or school psychologist employed by the school district. There are pros and cons to holding a child back when he/she is eligible for kindergarten. And, every child is different with different needs. Call your school district (dial 2-1-1 for contact information) to connect with someone who can help you make this decision.
My school district says each child will go through testing before starting kindergarten. What if my child does not do well on the testing? Will he be denied entry into kindergarten?
The only eligibility requirement for kindergarten is age. If your child is the right age to attend, he can attend. Some parents hear about and worry about “testing” that might occur before the school year begins, but most school administrators would say that “testing” is not the right word. It is an assessment or a screening that helps the school learn about your child’s strengths and areas that need extra support or development. Assessing the children’s needs before the start of school helps teachers prepare for the range of learners who will be in their classrooms, and helps schools allocate the right resources for students.
What happens during a kindergarten assessment? How should I prepare my child?
Different school districts might require different assessments. A teacher or counselor might spend 20 minutes or more with your child, doing activities on paper, interacting, and completing various tasks, to assess a range of academic, social, and motor skills.
You do not need to worry about your child “passing” or “failing” any part of an assessment. In general, all you need to do to prepare is what you are already doing: encouraging and learning with your child. You also can help your child with this list of basic skills (though every child is at a different stage with each of these skills when they enter kindergarten – which is why the assessments can be so helpful to the teacher!):
- self-help skills
- taking turns
- waiting in line
- listening to a story
- understanding spoken instructions
- identifying colors, shapes, numbers, and letters
- counting items
- sorting objects by color, size, type of object, etc.
- playing with puzzles
- writing his or her first and last name
- memorizing his or her street address
- recognizing rhyming sounds (cat/hat, top/mop)
- tying his or her shoelaces
(See also: Scholastic offers an article on the top readiness skills that kindergarten teachers want to see in their students.)
Two of the best, and simplest, things parents can do to prepare a child for learning is to talk with them and read to them. Let your child hear lots of different words. Read books aloud (review our book list for ideas). Narrate everything, and use synonyms (weird/odd, tasty/delicious, big/enormous, quick/fast, loud/noisy, tired/sleepy, rich/wealthy, scared/frightened) to help a child learn a new word that has the same meaning as a familiar word.
I think my child might have a learning, behavioral, or physical challenge. Do I need a special kindergarten assessment?
Parents with children who have learning differences, physical disabilities, or any other situation that might influence their transition into and experience in the classroom should contact their school district as early as age 3. Some students will qualify for special education services and may need a 504 Plan or an IEP (Individualized Educational Plan). The district may have specialized assessments, or recommendations or resources for parents. Here are some links to available resources:
What documents are required to enroll a child in kindergarten?
Usually, the child’s birth certificate, immunization records, proof of address, and guardianship papers (if applicable) are needed to enroll in kindergarten. If you are missing any of these documents or are unsure about any of them, use the following resources to get your paperwork in order BEFORE the kindergarten registration period (usually February or March before the child will start school):
To obtain a birth certificate: According to the Ohio Board of Health, you can obtain birth records from any city or county health department regardless of where the birth event occurred. In Cuyahoga County, requests can be directed to the City of Cleveland Bureau of Vital Statistics. Or, you can order a birth certificate online.
To obtain immunization records: Usually, either the parent or the child’s doctor, or both, are the keepers of this information. Make an appointment with your child’s doctor or clinic to get up-to-date on all vaccinations and receive the records needed for enrollment.
To obtain proof-of-address: “Proof of address” or “proof of residence” can mean different things depending on your district. Usually, it means the parent must provide photo identification, like a driver’s license, state-issued I.D., or passport, along with up to two of the following: a utility bill in their name; original lease/rental agreement, mortgage, or deed; tax statement; payroll receipt from an employer; or a residency and custody affidavit. Contact your district to find out what they accept in this category.
To obtain guardianship papers: This does not apply to every family, but it might apply to your family if you have experienced a divorce or separation, or the child in your household was placed in your care by a family member or agency.
To enroll a child in school, the person caring for the child needs to be able to prove they have custody.
If you need to prove guardianship or custody, typically you will provide the school with the appropriate, certified court journal entry or documentation, like the Juvenile Court orders or Probate Court order, or possibly a divorce decree and shared parenting plan, or placement information.
For help with custody concerns, and to receive the proper paperwork and guidance, contact:
Juvenile Court Clerk’s Office
9300 Quincy Avenue
Cleveland, Ohio 44106
To obtain custody, typically you will need the following information:
- Names, current addresses, and birth dates of both parents.
- Address of where the child is currently living, and name of whom that child is living with.
- Name and birth date of child.
- Parent’s marital status.
- Child’s birth certificate.
- Proof of paternity if the applicant is the father or father’s family.
- Filing fee (or an affidavit of indigency if you cannot afford the fee).
Any form you need is online at juvenile.cuyahogacounty.us.
Obtaining court-order custody requires at least one court appearance and can take some time, so start planning early.
If you are filing for custody yourself, without the help of an attorney, you can visit the Pro Se Center, which is part of the Office of Mediation at the Juvenile Court. It provides information and paperwork for those seeking to file for legal custody. The Pro Se Center is located at the Juvenile Justice Center, 9300 Quincy Avenue, Second Floor, Cleveland, Ohio 44106. The phone number is (216) 443‐3149.
You may need to either:
- Receive from the parent or legal custodian a Grandparent Power-of-Attorney document (Ohio Revised Code 3109.53) that will allow you certain rights and responsibilities in caring for the child;
- Or complete a “caretaker authorization affidavit.” The Ohio Revised Code specifies the content needed in the affidavit, and it needs to be filed with the juvenile court.
The law does not allow any other relative but a grandparent to execute these documents.
If you cannot obtain either of these documents, you will need to file an Application to Determine Custody or a Motion to Modify Custody at juvenile court.
If you are a relative of the child, but not a grandparent, and want to obtain custody so you can enroll the child in kindergarten:
You will need to file an Application to Determine Custody or a Motion to Modify Custody at juvenile court.
If you are a foster parent:
If the child in your household is under the custody of the Division of Children and Family Services, the case worker or foster parent should have paperwork that verifies the custody arrangements. See the entry below as well, in case it applies to your situation.
If the child was removed from their home for any reason, including abuse, neglect, or dependency:
You will need to prove custody using the court order that gives you or the Division of Children and Family Services custody, but there is another piece of paperwork that might be required. The original court order, or a separate order, should include a finding of which school district is required to pay for the child’s education. It is usually the district where the parent who had custody was living when the child was removed. This piece of paperwork can be difficult for caregivers to locate, simply because it happens when the child is first removed from the home, and it can be at the bottom of a stack of court documentation.
If you have a child in this situation, and you’ve gotten an order giving you custody but it doesn’t specify the school to pay, then you might need to either locate the first finding, or file another action. Either way, the Juvenile Court Clerk’s Office can help.
If you are caring for a child, but are not related to the child and have no official custody arrangements:
You will need to file an Application to Determine Custody or a Motion to Modify Custody at juvenile court.
I work full-time and will need before- and after-care options for my new kindergarten student. How do I find programs available near my home?
In Cuyahoga County, Starting Point offers a resource and referral service that lets parents learn about and choose from out-of-school-time program options near their home. Call 216-575-0061 and ask to speak to a specialist about after-school program and child-care options. You can also call the school your child will attend to inquire about onsite options for care.
How do I connect to my school district?
Cuyahoga County, Ohio, has 31 districts. To receive contact information for any of them, you can dial United Way’s 2-1-1 or browse this list of kindergarten registration contacts. The districts’ websites are linked below.
Does my child need to attend the school closest to our home, or do I have choices?
“Open Enrollment,” in which a student can attend a school outside of the district where the family resides, is sometimes an option. Each school district, each year, decides if and to what level they will participate in open enrollment. The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) publishes a list of districts’ open-enrollment application acceptance. For example, for Cuyahoga County for the 2013-2014 school year, the open enrollment report showed only one district listed as “Open to Any District” (Cleveland) and two others that were listed as “Open to Adjacent Districts,” while all others were listed as “No Open Enrollment.” However, parents who are interested in sending their child to another district or a different type of school should contact the school or district in which they are interested for more information about their application acceptance and terms.
For more information on this topic, visit the ODE School Choice page.
My child won’t be school-age for another couple of years. How do I find a good preschool?
In Cuyahoga County, Starting Point offers a resource and referral service that lets parents learn about and choose from early education options near their home. Call 216-575-0061 and ask to speak to a specialist about preschool and child care options, and questions to ask to make sure you have found the right fit for your family.
For other types of services for children who are younger than age 5, visit the Office of Early Childhood -Invest in Children for resources.
Will my child’s preschool or child care program automatically enroll my child in kindergarten?
Many preschool programs support and inform parents about what they need to do to make the transition to kindergarten, but it is always the parent’s responsibility to complete or verify kindergarten enrollment. Sometimes, if the preschool program is offered through the school district, the transfer of that enrollment information to kindergarten is automated, and a parent will only need to verify information or submit updated documents. If it is a community-based preschool or child care center, however, their paperwork and the school district’s paperwork are different. Parents would need to contact their school district and start the kindergarten enrollment process.
What is the “Common Core”? Does it have anything to do with kindergarten?
The Common Core is an initiative meant to make it clear to every student, parent, and teacher what the standards of success are in every school. And yes, it starts as early as kindergarten. Our previous blog post, Common Core Resources for Kindergarten Success, provides the details you need.
How do I learn more about preparing for kindergarten in my district?
For more information, connect with your local school district by dialing 2-1-1. Also, the Ohio Department of Education offers guidance for kindergarten and links to various resources, and Scholastic offers “parent-tested resources” for families with preschool and kindergarten-age children.
What is “March into Kindergarten”?
“March into Kindergarten” is a coalition of caring people, organizations, and school districts with the goals that children in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, will be registered, ready, and in class every day of kindergarten.
We help prepare preschool children, parents, teachers, and classrooms for the first day and every day of elementary school by offering information on kindergarten registration, transition, and readiness programs, and support for early childhood education success.
If you would like to join our team or support our efforts, introduce yourself through our Contact Page. And thanks!
This website is meant to be a supportive resource only and may not be complete, accurate or up-to-date; please continue to research and seek solutions to your family’s needs.