BUSD forcing child to go to First Grade

Our son has a late August birthday so we intentionally decided to keep him in Daycare an extra year hoping he could start Kindergarten the following year at age 6 - even his teachers thought it would be a good idea.  But we didn't realize BUSD is so strict about the age limit and we were told he is "aged out" of Kindergarten and has to jump straight into First Grade.  I'm so infuriated and don't know what to do.  The whole reason we kept him back is bc he has issues communicating when he gets frustrated, and we noticed when he's in a class with older kids, they pick on him a lot bc he's so sensitive and unable to speak up for himself. Being around younger kids this year has been wonderful for him bc he's a natural caretaker and loves to help the little ones and it helps build his confidence.  When I spoke to the BUSD person over the phone she basically didn't care that I was concerned for him.  As the parent of my own child, I feel like it should matter whether we think he is emotionally/mentally ready or not, but they don't seem to give a damn.  Is there anything I can do to fight this?  (doing another year at daycare is not an option for us).

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You can try to fight, but BUSD is strict. I don’t know anyone who has been successful getting their kid into a different grade than their age dictates unless they transfer from another school at a higher grade level. Generally the options are to accept it or private school. 

Many families we know with children with learning differences (not due to age but due to learning disabilities) end up leaving BUSD for private schools for basically this reason - it’s very hard to get the district to accommodate any sort of differential development.

If your child is so asynchronous that he may qualify for an IEP, you could try requesting an assessment. But they have to be 2 grade levels behind before the district will do anything. So unless he is really immature - more so than kids a year or more younger than him - it’s unlikely to go anywhere.

BUSD is quite strict about this. There are neighboring districts that are not, so you could potentially request an interdistrict transfer if you live close enough to Oakland or Albany for that to make sense--but not sure if BUSD will approve one for that reason. Could be worth exploring, though. 

My daughter also has a late August birthday and started in kindergarten this year. I was really interested in keeping her back a year as well and starting her next year but everything I read said that what you’re experiencing would be the case. I could hold her for a year in preschool, but then she’d have to start in 1st grade the following year. I’m so sorry you’re in this position! My sense is that Berkeley is one of the only districts nearby that are super strict on this. I have friends in Oakland school district that held their kids and started them at the point you’re wanting to. You could apply for an interdistrict transfer to Oakland or Albany and see if that works? The biggest issue with that though is getting Berkeley to release you to the other district as it means a loss of money to them. For what it’s worth, Berkeley schools seem pretty great. If you start him in 1st and he’s really struggling, you might be able to advocate to get him back into kindergarten once he’s at an actual school.

This is the law in California and you're unlikely to have much success fighting it. It sounds like your son might benefit from a special education evaluation to see if he qualifies for an IEP, especially considering he's going to be significantly behind his first grade peers who have had the experience of Kindergarten.  The other option is to pay for private school. 

Unfortunately, you should have checked with BUSD before you held your son back. I've been a parent in BUSD for 13 years, and I have found that they mostly stand their ground. They have heard it all, and they very much follow the rules. You can try to fight it, but they seem to never make exceptions. I've never won any of my battles with them. You may need to look at private schools. 

The only option is to pay for Kindergarten in a private school and then enter BUSD in first grade. I'm sorry. (We learned of this rule and tried to fight with doctor's notes, preschool director letters and nothing worked. Our child is now youngest in his grade and indeed has an IEP, but didn't get one until end of 2nd grade — see other answer to your question.)

I am so sorry to hear this. It happened to a friend of mine who kept her kid back because of COVID and she didn't want Zoom K and he also was a summer bday. There is no option with BUSD. K is not a state requirement so they will force him into Grade 1. I would consider a private  school if this is a priority. They have good financial aid packages and there are some amazing ones in berkeley. He can still get an IEP if he shows any learning differences also

I'm sorry you didn't realize that would happen. It's quite established that this is BUSD's policy and has been this way for a long time. It's been extensively discussed in this forum (BPN) as well. It's my understanding that the district needs to use birthdates as a cutoff and hold the line, or it would be a slippery slope all over the place with parents trying to move their kid one way or the other (younger/older). It had been a problem that parents were trying to hold their kids back so they'd be older in their grade for sports, so the boys would be bigger/stronger, etc. I'm not questioning your rationale, but rather supporting the established policy. I think you should start your son and see how he does! He might just amaze you! Maybe aim for one of the smaller schools, like Emerson - the staff are wonderfully supportive and communicative, and they were there for my sensitive son every step of the way. The alternative, of course, is private school. 

You might look into whether a neighboring district might be less strict. More districts are accepting transfers now because of falling enrollment. Another thing to research is BUSD‘s policy for assigning grade level to kids transferring in from private schools. If a kid is coming from a private school (or another public  district) and has just finished kindergarten, do they assign by age or keep the kid in their grade sequence? Find out the policy for kids entering both after kindergarten and after first grade. Because it may be that once kids are already in elementary school (or past 1st grade) they follow the grade track, not the age. If so, you could find a private kindergarten for a year. Some montessori and other preschools have attached kindergartens. Or you could enroll him in a regular private school for two years if the policy shifts first grade. I‘m not sure, but I have a feeling there’s a point after which students transferring in from elsewhere are placed according to their grade level at their old school. 

You could submit a "request for assessment" to your local educational agency in your school district. By law, they are required to assess your child and create a plan to best fit his specific needs and required accommodations in school at no expense to you. However, the team of professionals evaluating your child may decide he doesn't require any accommodations and then you'd be back where you started but I think it's worth a try. 

This was many years ago, but our daughter, who was in a private primary school that is no longer in operation, was not ready to enter first grade.

She was on target with academics, but struggling socially.

There was a meeting between the two teachers (1st grade and kindergarten) and us, the parents.

The school wanted her to go forward.  We agreed to it. But she was really not ready.

Midyear, the first grade teacher came to me with her metaphoric cap in her hand. "You were right," she told me.

So our daughter repeated first grade.  I was OK with it because the first great teacher was excellent.

But it was not ideal She was teased by the other kids. It was not a total disaster,  but was an avoidable upheaval in our lives.

If I were in your position, I would spend the money for a private kindergarten and then return her to BUSD first grade in one year, with extra maturity to help her move forward.

In my experience, although Kindergarten is not required by the state of CA, by January of Kindergarten, my child was expected to know 30-40 sight words, recognize and recreate fairly complicated geometric patterns, and simple addition, have life skills such as opening lunch containers, tying shoes, zipping jackets, buttoning sweaters, and social skills such as circle time, standing quietly in line, and following playground rules.

Since BUSD, and I would suspect most if not all public school districts, is not flexible on the age/grade component for first grade, I suggest enrolling in a virtual kindergarten and going through the curriculum with your child on evenings and weekends. Additionally, ask his daycare to work with him to get the life skills and social skills.

Please do not express your concerns to your child, make the virtual kindergarten a fun and exciting adventure!  Play kindergarten camp!

Welcome to the incredibly inflexible shitshow that is BUSD. Send your kid to private school. I wish I had.

Age requirements are set by state law, not districts. Which is why BUSD is insistent on following the law. Personally, I think the cutoff should be August 1 not Sept so everyone is 5 when they start kinder. We need to get the state legislature to change it.

It's not too late to enroll him in kinder for this year so he won't be behind in 1st grade. Once you're assigned to a school, maybe you could plead your principal/kinder teacher? But that would depend on space/enrollment too.

I recommend that you let your kid go to first grade. You are very lucky to be in the Berkeley district as the teachers and schools are very good to great and aren't as overenrolled as the other districts. I realize that it is upsetting to miss Kindergarten but your child had an entire extra year in a small environment. It is likely that in a school environment, they will rise to the challenge, as most kids do. Kindergarten is not required in most states, including ours. At the beginning of the school year when you're assigned a teacher you can let them know that your son is in this situation and may need a little extra social help. Teachers want to know about the kids in their class and they want to help. First graders are still so young and still have so much learning to do, particularly these days post-covid. There is a still wide range of experience and knowledge in a first grade class. 

I think it's the State of California that is inflexible with the dates, and BUSD is just an instrument of the state. Being "infuriated" at BUSD seems like an overreaction to the school district following state law. This is the consequence of the choice you made to not send your child to kindergarten; I think the first poster was right that your two options are go for 1st grade in the district or apply to private for K.

Thanks so much for everyone's input.  Just to clarify, the Director at his current preschool and his teachers both recommended he be held back.  Unfortunately, they were not aware of this rule... they're claiming it's a new rule implemented this year, but many of you are stating this rule has been around.  On the website, all it states is that a child must be 5 on or before Sept 1.  They mention the minimum age required but not the maximum - they don't mention a child CANNOT be 6 when entering Kindergarten - hence, why I am infuriated by this arbitrary date and the lack of information given on the website.  When I called BUSD the woman stated we could do private kindergarten so we are researching that as we speak.  But bc I don't trust BUSD, I emailed again to make sure he could enter 1st grade the following year if we do a private school.  I got a response stating that he can't be entered into ANY private kindergarten.  It cannot be a Montessori school.  They need to be clearer about these rules  bc we already applied to some Montessori schools.   I emailed asking them to clarify which schools they would find acceptable bc we are not paying an arm and leg for a private school that we can barely afford only to find out later that it was not acceptable to BUSD.  We want to put him into Berkeley schools and we appreciate that we're able to live here, but we are annoyed that we were told by his school director and teachers that he should be held back, while they were completely unaware of this rule.  Yes, it's not BUSD's fault but on the other hand, their website is not clear on the age maximum.  We are looking into inter district transfers but I've read that Berkeley will sometimes deny those as well... so we are also looking into homeschooling.  That's a whole other thing we have to research as well.