Does it seem like just yesterday that your little baby was born, and now they are going to turn 4 this year?! Besides growing up, this also means that your son or daughter is going to start school in September! You’re thinking JK already?! If you were like me, you might also be asking yourself “when do you need to register for kindergarten?”
As I began to look into what I needed to know about kindergarten registration, I was surprised to find out a few things:
- Registration is at the beginning of the year (usually January)
- Open House is in the beginning of the school year (September)
- Orientation is near the end of the school year (May or June)
I found out about some of these things when the timeframe to participate had already passed. Not useful. So I’m sharing some of the things I learned so that you can be equipped with the right information before you need it.
WHAT I ALREADY KNEW
Since I went to elementary school in Ontario, I was already familiar with the fact that children start school the year that they turn 4 years of age. What this also means is that you can have a child born January 1st, and one born December 31st, making them almost one full year apart in age.
WHAT HAS CHANGED OVER THE YEARS
One major aspect of Kindergarten that has changed since I was young was the introduction of full day Kindergarten (often abbreviated to FDK in conversations). Previously, many (many) years ago, both Junior Kindergarten (JK) and Senior Kindergarten (SK) were half day programs. Junior Kindergarten (JK) was in the afternoon, while Senior Kindergarten (SK) was in the morning. All Kindergartens classes became full day programs in the 2014-2015 school year.
The school day generally ran from 9:00AM until 3:30PM (9AM-12PM for SK, 12:30PM-3:30PM for JK), but now every school has DIFFERENT start and end times. Some schools start before 8AM! The staggering of start and end times, as far as I know, is to help alleviate traffic and congestion. Knowing this information also comes in handy when you are trying to plan out the logistics of your school pickup and drop off (although for us, what we were told at orientation changed by five minutes – we were alerted a couple of weeks before school started).
SOME THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW
You should start thinking about Kindergarten when your child is 2. I say this to cover the children that are born on December 31st. Really, you are probably just fine beginning your research when your child is still 3 – however, all the deadlines that I presumed existed ended much earlier than I thought they would. For example, if a school’s open house is in September, this means you would have to visit the school you are interested in attending one full year in advance. If you think that orientation happens just a couple of weeks before school starts – you are wrong – try a couple of months (or more, like May!)
It’s not mandatory that you attend the open house, or even the orientation. But, if you are like me, you would appreciate any opportunity to soak up more information and to get more familiar with everything and everybody (school, teachers, etc.)
Much of this information concerning all these dates you “should” already know is out there in the world-wide interweb…but it requires you to dig. Before you can dig for this information, you need to figure out what you are looking for – such as what is your home-school, and what school board you belong to. I found all of this information on my daughter’s online school newsletter when she began school, but guess what – I had no idea it was all there before she started (it’s like the chicken and the egg).
WHAT SCHOOL DO YOU ENROLL IN
In Ontario, we have a publicly funded education system that is split into four:
- Catholic (French Immersion)
- Public (French Immersion)
- Catholic (non-French Immersion)
- Public (non-French Immersion)
I am not sure when the huge demand for French Immersion began, but the demand is real and un-satiated. Some school boards have implemented caps and lotteries for enrollment. So while you might think it would be great to have your child attend a Public French Immersion school, you might not have the option. Check your school board to find out if there are any restrictions to enrollment.
But before we discuss the barriers, let’s first make the choice of what type of education system you want your child to be in.
GOOGLE (LOOK UP) WHAT BOARD YOU BELONG TO
Your google search should include your city and your “choice” of system (e.g. “French Catholic school system Mississauga” will give you a search result of Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board)
WHAT SCHOOL DO YOU ATTEND
Now that you have figured out which board you belong to, you can start figuring out what school your child will attend. This is dictated by the school’s boundaries, and your home address. Most board websites have a tool, or a map showing you what school your child should attend based on where you live.
NOW THAT YOU KNOW THE SCHOOL, FIND OUT SPECIFICS
Now that you figured out what school is your home-school, you can usually go to the school’s website, or call them to find out some particulars such as:
- What day is Kindergarten registration
- What documents do I need to provide upon registration
WHAT INFORMATION DO YOU NEED TO PROVIDE
You will usually need your proof of address, the child’s birth certificate, and their immunization card. Consult your school to find out exactly what they need on the day of registration. Some schools will allow you to present the remaining documents (such as immunization card) closer to day when school starts.
IF YOU MISS THE REGISTRATION DATE, IT’S OKAY!
Schools will tell you the day to register for Kindergarten is a specific date (e.g. January 9) – but what if you can’t make it? It’s okay! Your child will still be able to go to school if you cannot get to the school that day to register your child. The date given just tells you when the school starts to accept Kindergarten registration. You can still register after this date, and your child can still attend the school if that is their home school. Enrolling early helps with the schools planning (how many teachers do they need, how many classrooms, etc.). If your school is too full, they might open up another holding school at an alternate location. In such cases it might be good to enroll early, but staying at the same location is still no guarantee. If opening up more classes at a different location is the only way to accommodate class sizes, someone has to get moved even if they registered early.
Another thing to note is if you are already registered in school (e.g. your child already attends JK) you do not have to re-register your child the following year. It is done automatically, however, your school may want to check that your information is up to date.
WHAT IF YOU WANT TO ATTEND A DIFFERENT SCHOOL
This question is an interesting one because the answer can be big and controversial. Part of the equation comes down to parents wanting what is “best” for their child – be it a French Immersion setting, or a school with better ranking (http://ontario.compareschoolrankings.org/elementary/SchoolsByAreaMap.aspx …although teachers themselves will tell you that these rankings are not a good indicator of what makes a “good” school). Another reason parents want to switch schools is for ease of child care (care giver’s location is closer to a different school.)
Like a company, schools have to deal with supply and demand. The supply: schools and teachers, the demand: parents, families, children that want to attend a certain school for some of the reasons mentioned above. Some schools are bursting at the seams, while others are being considered for closure because they are too empty.
People have come up with some creative ways to make their preferred school their home school, but if you are abiding by the system you would request for a transfer after you have enrolled into your own home school. If a school is not your home school, then preference is given to those children for which the school is actually their home school. If there is enough room, then you can be transferred into your school of choice.
Those are some of the immediate questions I had in mind when I first started to think about Kindergarten. I had many other questions in mind too, such as what school system should Beaner enroll in, and how she would adapt. Things have worked out pretty well so far, and if you are interested I’ll be writing about these experiences in another post, another day! Come back and visit!
Here is a link to the Ontario Ministry of Education, a government source of information: