PITTSFIELD -- Youngsters entering kindergarten in Pittsfield schools must now be 5 years old by Sept. 1 of that school year.
With no debate, the School Committee this week approved a new policy raising the minimum age from 4 years and 9 months.
The unanimous vote was the second reading on a policy that also received unanimous support at a meeting in February.
Early childhood instructors and teachers advocated for the change, saying too many of those students were hampered academically, physically or socially because they were younger than their classmates.
Students have for many years been allowed to enter kindergarten if they were 5 as of Dec. 1 of the new school year.
The policy will go into effect over two years. Youngsters must be 5 as of Oct. 1, 2015, to begin classes for the 2015-16 academic year, and 5 as of Sept. 1, 2016, for the 2016-17 school year.
In addition, full-day kindergarten will be offered for those students affected by the change while the policy change is being implemented.
Susetta Doucette, the early childhood education coordinator, said in February that some students are negatively affected throughout their elementary and secondary careers and require more specialized services because they are younger and often smaller than most classmates.
Doucette said 93 percent of school districts with kindergartens require a child to be 5 by either Aug. 31 or Sept. 1 of the coming school year. Some require a child to be 5 by March of the same year.
In Berkshire County, she said, Lee schools still allow students to start kindergarten before they are 5, using Oct. 1 as the cutoff date.
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