Enrolling your child(ren) in school can take time and preparation, so it is a good idea to start the process as soon as possible. This guide is designed to answer common questions parents ask when they want information about how to enroll their child — no matter the age — in traditional district and charter schools.
When should my child start school?
Parents often enroll their children in preschool prior to kindergarten or elementary school. Most preschools accept children at 3 years old or older, but the age to start preschool can vary. Experts agree that children who attend a preschool with experienced staff and a stimulating environment are better set up for success in later years.
According to state law, all children in California must be enrolled in a full-time school by the age of 6 years old. Parents are legally required to enroll their child in a full-time school by the time their child reaches the age of six. It is up to the parent and the school district to decide whether the child should be enrolled in kindergarten or in first grade.
Typically, parents enroll their children in kindergarten at age 5, prior to enrollment in first grade. A child who turns 5 years old on or before September 1 of a given year can be admitted to a district-run kindergarten at the beginning of that school year. Each school district is required to offer kindergarten classes.
How do I know if my child is eligible for kindergarten?
Age is the only eligibility requirement for kindergarten. Your child can attend a district-run kindergarten if s/he is 5 years old on or before September 1 of that school year.
What is transitional kindergarten?
Transitional kindergarten (TK) is the first year of a specific kind of two-year kindergarten program that uses a curriculum that has been tailored for students’ age and developmental stage. A child can attend a TK if they turn 5 years old between September 2 and December 3. Each school district must offer TK classes for all children eligible to attend. A child who completes one year in a TK program, may continue in a kindergarten program for one additional year.
Does my child need any immunizations?
According to California state law, all school-age children must get a health check-up prior to being admitted to school. This check-up includes a health exam and a current immunization record. The district can provide you with a form called a Report of Health Examination for School Entry, which must be completed and submitted to the school as part of the enrollment process.
To find out if your child has all of the immunizations s/he needs to be admitted to school, make an appointment for a health exam for your child and bring a copy of the Report of Health Examination for School Entry for the health examiner to fill out.
What do I need in order to register and enroll my child in school?
Typically, to enroll their child in a new school, parents will need to provide a physical address, some form of identification for the child (like a birth certificate), proof of legal guardianship, the student’s shot records, student health exam records and previous school records.
Some public schools and districts require that parents fill out an application form. Check with your district administrator to see if you have to fill out an application to attend the school you are interested in.
Most schools require parents to fill out emergency contact forms, in case a child gets hurt or has an emergency at school and the parent is unavailable. These forms may also ask for medical and dental insurance information.
According to the federal McKinney-Vento Act and California state law, you are guaranteed enrollment in a district-run public school, even if you have uncertain housing or have temporary or no permanent physical address. Under these circumstances, you may not have to provide proof of residency, proof of legal guardianship, immunization records, or previous school records.
I have questions about a specific school in my area. Who should I ask?
Visit GreatSchools.org to find information about your school. There you’ll find the school’s contact information, as well as information about what kinds of programs the school offers, the latest state test scores broken out by student group, and other information about this school. You can also contact your local school district.
- School enrollment requirements
- Navigating the system: Oakland
- Navigating the system: San Francisco
- Transitional Kindergarten 101
- Explore your options. Find the school(s) in your area that your child can attend. If you can not visit in person, many schools and schools districts have websites that provide important information about enrollment criteria.
- Visit a school or go on a tour. Especially January through March, most schools allow parents to visit and see what a typical school day looks like; the size of the school, playground, and classrooms; and the teachers and staff working and interacting with the children. Check with the school for the best days and hours to visit. School tours, which are usually organized by the school staff or active parents, also give you a better sense of whether or not the school is the right fit for your child. Ask your school tour guide about the specific information the school will need from you in order to register your child in school, and when all of it is due.
- Attend an informational fair. Many school districts and charter schools hold an informational fair that provides parents with general information about when and how to register your child, and any requirements they need for enrollment and admission.
- Register! Registration usually takes place in March or April. You typically have to register in person at the school district office, and charter schools often require an application that is due around this time. Be sure to check the specific school’s website, or talk to the school leader to make sure you register and/or apply on time. Make sure to have completed all of the necessary paperwork before the registration deadline!
- Congratulations! You’ve been enrolled! By the end of school year, you should hear back from schools about where your child is officially enrolled. This is a big accomplishment! Make sure to read through the entire letter, since it usually provides important information about what you’ll need to prepare for school in Fall, any other documents you need to provide to complete the enrollment process, and the school’s policies and procedures.
- Plan ahead! Make sure child has everything needed to start school. If you need assistance, many school districts and charter schools have offices that help parents and families obtain school supplies and other necessary materials for school.
- Keep working on reading and math during the summer! While school is out, continue to encourage your child to read and do math. Kids sometimes lose some of their reading and math skills over the summer, so make sure they don’t experience the “summer slide.” Here are some great ways to keep kids learning over the summer months.
Go to school!