WV Code §18-8-1a covers when students are required to start school and how you get in. Beginning in the school year 2019-2020, parents don’t have to file a Notification of Intent (NOI) until the child is six by July 1, or if they’ve enrolled in a publicly supported kindergarten program. Easy, right? Then why do school systems call Child Protective Services?

Most parents want to start their child in kindergarten at age 5.

WV Code says: “beginning in the school year 2019-2020, compulsory school attendance begins with the school year in which the sixth birthday is reached prior to July 1 of such year or upon enrolling in a publicly supported kindergarten program.”

The child isn’t legally required to attend school yet, and so no NOI is legally required. However, the law continues on to say:

(b) Attendance at a state-approved or Montessori kindergarten, as provided in section eighteen, article five of this chapter, is deemed school attendance for purposes of this section. Prior to entrance into the first grade in accordance with section five, article two of this chapter, each child must have either:

     (1) Successfully completed such publicly or privately supported, state-approved kindergarten program or Montessori kindergarten program; or

     (2) Successfully completed an entrance test of basic readiness skills approved by the county in which the school is located. The test may be administered in lieu of kindergarten attendance only under extraordinary circumstances to be determined by the county board.

If parents have done kindergarten at home and haven’t filed an NOI, from the BOE’s point of view the child hasn’t yet been in school and the kindergarten law would apply. Therefore, if parents try to enroll their child in first grade in a public school, they will either deny entrance to first grade, or test the child into first grade.

As a result, if parents are homeschooling kindergarten and there is a possibility that their child may attend first grade in the public school system, parents should try to make sure the child is prepared to pass a first grade level reading and math test.

This is good advice even though the law does not require that homeschoolers use the public school standards for reading, language, mathematics, science and social studies.

If the parent doesn’t mind a younger child doing kindergarten twice, once at home and once at school, this is not an issue.

Because the law doesn’t explicitly mention homeschooling as an acceptable substitute for kindergarten, filing an NOI and obtaining an end-of-year assessment is not a guarantee that homeschooling will be accepted for entrance into first grade, but it certainly increases the odds.

Note that the law only applies to children entering the first grade – a second grader would probably not be sent back to kindergarten.

However, if

  • parents try to enroll their child in first grade without an NOI or an end-of-year assessment, and
  • the school system tests the child and believes that the child should be placed in kindergarten on the results of the test, but
  • parents file an NOI for homeschooling first grade instead of taking the kindergarten placement,
  • then a school system may file charges of educational neglect with the Department of Health and Human Resources.

At this point, parents should hire an attorney, assuming they’re not already a member of a homeschool legal defense association.

–Courtney Ostaff

Ideas and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editor or the members of the Governing Board of WVHEA.