Help! Moving Mid-School-Year Got My Daughter Kicked Out Of Kindergarten

As a child, I never finished a single school straight through to the end. I always changed to a different school for some reason. In elementary school it was because my mom got a job at a school across town. In middle school, we moved houses. In high school, I spent the last two years at a boarding school for accelerated learners. I consider myself an experienced school-switcher. I’m not going to say that it’s easy, but I don’t think it will permanently scar children any more than other random facts of life. However, there’s one big exception to my “new kid on the block” backround. I never attempted to switch schools in the middle of the year. That seems like a very different process and a much more difficult transition. And that is what a dear friend’s daughter is going to have to go through all because their house sold more quickly than expected and her school promptly kicked her out of kindergarten.

My close friend, Catherine*, called me a little frantic last night. Her daughter was being kicked out of school! Knowing Catherine’s intensely sweet and achingly polite little girl, I was pretty confused. But I have to admit, the way my friend was bullied by her school district was even more unbelievable than thinking that a bright, kind child had been expelled from kindergarten.

Catherine’s husband recently got a job working three hours away. Since the beginning of the school year, he’s been spending the weeks at work and only coming home to see his family on the weekends. Obviously, it’s been pretty hard on all of them to have him away. But the family needed time to pack up their house and get it on the market before moving, so they enrolled their daughter Kylee* into kindergarten in our hometown. They planned on putting their house up for sale in November, knowing that the housing market was weak and it might take months to sell. Hopefully, they would sell their house by the spring, then Catherine and Kylee could live with grandparents until the school year ended and they would all move into a new house  this summer. That was their plan.

Then, recession be damned, Catherine’s house sold on the day it went up for sale. Literally, the sign when in the yard at 1pm and by 10 o’clock that night, they were offered full asking price. No, I will not give you the name of their realtor, but I will tell you that they were pretty shocked. Suddenly, all of their plans were put into hyperdrive. They quickly packed and started searching for houses in their new city. Grandparents were hurriedly cleaning out spare rooms, preparing for their arrival. And just in time for the holidays, Catherine and her family moved in with her parents. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief, but there was one snag in the plan that hadn’t been accounted for. Even though Catherine and her parents live in the same city, a mere 15 minutes from each other, they live in two different school districts.

No one realized that this was going to be such an issue until Kylee’s school got wind of the move. After all, you can’t really expect a kindergartner to refrain from speaking about a huge upheaval in her life. Suddenly, Catherine got a call from the principal of her school saying that Kylee was not welcome to return after the end of the week. The principal gave my friend two days to make other arrangements for her child and say goodbye.

Catherine was shocked. Her mother, who works as an educator, was shocked. I was shocked. A school would kick out a five year old girl because they moved houses in the  middle of the year? They couldn’t even wait until next September? After all, taxes are allocated to every school during September. So technically, the school was paid to educate Kylee for the entire year already. Catherine and her husband pay additional tuition so that Kylee can attend a full-day program, a fee they were happy to continue paying. Transportation wasn’t an issue, because Catherine is a stay-at-home mom who takes her daughter to and from school everyday and even volunteers in her classroom multiple times a week. Catherine heads up fundraisers at school and works at the school spirit shop. She reads stories and helps with snack. She’s an active member of her school, the type of parent that most teachers pray for.

Now, my friend’s choices are whether she’s going to find an apartment in her new city, in the same school district that they’ll be moving to, so that her daughter can switch to her new school immediately. They’ll have an additional cost of rent while they’re getting their new home. And Kylee will miss at least a couple weeks of school while they move and get readjusted. Or Kylee can switch to a new school in our city, in the district of Catherine’s parents. That would mean that she only attends this new school for a couple months before she leaves again. But either way, this poor little girl is going to be ripped from a classroom where she feels comfortable and deposited into a new, unfamiliar setting.

As a veteran at switching schools, why do I think that moving mid-year is so different? Well first of all, curriculums vary by district, by school and by teacher. Kylee’s new class could be covering things that she learned months ago, causing her to lose attention and focus. Or, they could be a couple steps ahead of Kylee’s old class. Then, she can feel confused and unsure when she’s already in a new place. Secondly, at the beginning of a new year, everyone is on the same level. Sure, you might know some friends from a previous class. But every child has to learn about the environment of their classroom. Social structures haven’t been formed yet and the class’s rules haven’t been learned. Switching mid-year means walking into an established system where you feel completely out-of-place. The kids have been playing together for months. The teacher knows all their strengths and weaknesses. I hate showing up late to a party that’s already in full swing. Switching mid-year involves that type of social anxiety multiplied by a couple hundred.

My friend now has one day before her daughter has to say goodbye to all of the friends and relationships that she’s made in her first year of education. Kylee has to leave a classroom where she feels confident and secure, and I’m not quite what the school district gets out of it. I have no idea why they couldn’t continue to educate this child for a couple more months. The only thing I do know is that if our school districts are supposed to be serving our children, they just failed one of their youngest charges. Through a ridiculous bit of bureaucracy, they made school more difficult and stressful for an amazing little girl whose house sold quicker than her parents expected.

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