Students who turn 5 between Sept. 1 and Dec. 31 will be allowed to attend kindergarten next school year in districts that offer the program. A bill that would have halted early learner kindergarten programs in the state is dead, the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Slade Mead, R-Ahwatukee Foothills, said Tuesday.
Mead said he wanted to stop the program because he said too many children are entering school unprepared socially or emotionally. He will try to bring the bill back next session.
‘‘I think it’s a terrible mistake, because I think the bill would have been very good for the children of Arizona,’’ Mead said.
The bill was stopped because Rep. Linda Gray, RGlendale, would not allow it to be heard in the House Education Committee. She said principals now have the option to test and interview the 4-yearold students before they are enrolled to determine if they’re ready.
She would like to see a bill next year that changes the provision so students are required to go through tests or interviews because too many students enrolling lack that screening. She said she and Mead could not reach an agreement, so Gray held the bill.
Schools are trying to get word to parents that early kindergartners can be enrolled.
In the Tempe Elementary School District, about 400 students fell into that age group this year, said Debra Gomez, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning.
"The sooner we can get them in and start working on their development skills, the better it is for them," she said.
The Mesa Unified School District also offers the program. About 1,100 students are in the classes now, said Marilyn Box, early childhood specialist. The district expects a similar number next year.
The Chandler, Gilbert and Kyrene school districts also offer programs for young kindergartners. Schools are registering now.