Polk officially asks state to change school age

Published 6:39 pm Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Polk County Board of Commissioners is hoping to start a chain reaction across the state to lower the required school age for children from the current age of 7 to 6 years of age.
Commissioners met Monday, May 7 and approved a resolution in favor of the state lowering the school age.
The move stemmed from a Polk County Child Protection Team Report that indicated two children might have avoided neglect if the school age were lower.
North Carolina requires children to be enrolled in school between the ages of 7 and 16, based on a law that was enacted in 1907, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
“This is something I’ve wanted to change for about 20 years,” said Polk County Manager Ryan Whitson.
Whitson said changing the law won’t affect very many families in Polk County, because most parents here send their children to kindergarten at age 5 and first grade at age 6. Many in Polk also enroll their children in preschool at age 4, Whitson added.
“Many counties have families that don’t have the gumption to get up and get their children to school,” Whitson said.
Whitson said with his background in social services, he’s seen that children who don’t begin attending school until age 7 get behind and end up in social services later in life.
Commissioners agreed that it may not affect many in Polk County but could make a huge difference in other areas of the state.
Commissioner Cindy Walker thanked Polk County Department of Social Services (DSS) Director Lou Parton for the information the child protection team brought to commissioners, as well as local news media for the attention.
The resolution approved by Polk commissioners states statistics showing the earlier children are enrolled in an instructional program the better their chances of success and urges the North Carolina General Assembly to lower the required age.
Polk County plans to send its resolution to N.C. legislation, the N.C. Association of County Commissioners and to the other 99 county clerks to ask them to adopt similar resolutions.

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