Congrats! Your child is almost ready for kindergarten!
We've put together this guide to help you find the best kindergarten in Tucson for your child.
When it comes to kindergarten in Tucson, there are many different focuses. Some are play-based, whereas others are more academic. Some are half-day, others are full-day.
In general, full-day kindergartens are easier to find in Tucson than half-day kindergartens.
If you plan to send your child to a public school for kindergarten, you can call, email, or visit your district office to determine school placement. In most cases, your child will be assigned to the neighborhood school that is the closest to your home. Some districts do, however, offer open enrollment where you are able to choose a school within the district limits. Similarly, you may be able to "open enroll" at a school outside of your designated district in certain circumstances.
You can search by zip code on the Arizona Department of Education website to find the public and charter schools that are closest to you.
As is the case nationwide, kindergarten at public schools is tuition-free in Tucson.
A charter school is a school that receives government funding, but operates independently of the established state school system. Historically, Tucson has been a "charter school friendly city" so there are many charter schools in the metro area and in the surrounding suburbs.
Since charter schools receive government funding, they must adhere to specific guidelines instituted by the Department of Education.
Many of the charter schools in Tucson have stellar academic reputations (beating out public schools in test scores and extracurriculars), while other charter schools have a poor reputation. It is important to take a school tour, to ask for recommendations, and to do your own research before making an enrollment choice for your child.
Because charter schools are public schools in a different form, students attend free and do not pay tuition.
Some parents choose to enroll their child in a private school for kindergarten. There are a number of different private schools in Tucson with different focuses - Lutheran, Catholic, Christian, Classical, College Preparatory, Montessori, Waldorf, etc.
Private schools are tuition-based and have unique admissions criteria (which may include academic assessments, student/parent interviews, and/or home visits). Private schools have the right to reject admission to students who they do not think are a strong fit for their school.
According to ARS 15-802, “Homeschool means a nonpublic school conducted primarily by the parent, guardian, or other person who has custody of the child or nonpublic instruction provided in the child’s home.”
That statute states that, “Every child between the ages of six and sixteen years shall be provided instruction in at least the subjects of reading, grammar, mathematics, social studies, and science.”
When your child turns six, you will need to file an affidavit of intent with the county school superintendent stating that your child is being provided with instruction in a homeschool setting. As stated above, you are required to provide your child with instruction in reading, grammar, mathematics, social studies, and science.
An affidavit is not needed until your child is six.
No additional paperwork, testing, or documentation is required.
For a complete overview of the homeschool laws in Arizona, please see this helpful homeschool information page created by the Pima County School Superintendent.
Be sure to also refer to our homeschooling resource page.
If you have a particular type of kindergarten in mind, rest assured that there a variety of options in Tucson – bilingual kindergartens, Montessori kindergartens, Waldorf kindergartens, Christian kindergartens, kindergartens for children with learning disabilities, kindergartens for gifted children, and more.
According to Arizona Education Code, “a child is eligible for admission to kindergarten if the child is five years of age. A child is deemed five years of age if the child reached the age of five before September 1 of the current school year." In other words, the kindergarten cut-off date for Arizona is September 1. These guidelines apply to public and charter schools in Tucson. Private schools often follow similar cut-off dates, but have more flexibility regarding the age and readiness of the individual child.
Arizona Education Code also addresses this issue, "The governing board may admit children who have not reached the required age as prescribed by this subsection if it is determined to be in the best interest of the children. Such children must reach the required age of five for kindergarten…by January 1 of the current school year.” In other words, it's up to the school...but the child still needs to be five years old before January 1.
Again, these guidelines apply to public and charter schools. Private schools typically have similar age policies in place.
Holding a child back from kindergarten or delaying a child's admission to kindergarten until the following year is referred to as "red-shirting." This practice has become more common in recent years as parents consider if an extra year will give their child more success in the classroom and in the sports arena. Research has been mixed about the potential benefits of this practice and parents should strongly consider the pros and cons for their child. It would also be advantageous to tour prospective schools and to meet with prospective teachers to receive feedback and to evaluate readiness.
Schools vary widely in their kindergarten readiness requirements and recommendations. Play-based kindergartens may focus more on social skills, basic literacy, the fine arts, and hand-eye coordination. Academic kindergarten classrooms may expect kids to read, spell, add, and write essays over the course of the year.
In general, it is wise to spend time working with your child on the following skills during the preschool years (ages 2-5):
Of course, every child is different and has unique strengths and weakness. For instance, some young children may be ready to read pre-kindergarten whereas others may not read fluidly until age 8+. Both of these children have the potential to grow up to be strong readers and intelligent contributors to society. Work on the above tasks in a light-hearted manner at your child's pace.
Most importantly, read to your child daily and talk to your child often. Lead by example in love, gentleness, respectfulness, self-control, and perseverance.
Attendance at public and charter schools in Tucson is free. Private schools are tuition-based.
Tuition for kindergarten at private schools in Tucson ranges from $5733-$10,860/year with the average being around $8500/year. Some schools offer scholarships and financial aid. Parents can also seek out tax credit donations from family and friends, thanks to the innovative Arizona Tax Credit program.
ESA stands for Empowerment Scholarship Account. It is a program that is administered by the Arizona Department of Education.
In essence, parents can choose to opt their child out of the public school system and instead receive funds to enroll their child in a private school or to homeschool.
There are very specific eligibility guidelines for this program. Your child may qualify if he/she falls in one or more of the below categories:
There are application dates each quarter. If your child is approved for the ESA program, you may be able to use the funds for tuition at a private school (specific guidelines apply).
In order to find a program that is safe for your child and that is a strong fit for your family, it is important to ask good questions at any tours or information meetings.
Here are ten questions you may want to ask prospective schools:
Great question! With dozens of kindergarten programs in Tucson, it’s hard to pinpoint just one. Each kindergarten has a unique community, curriculum, and focus.
The best way to find a kindergarten in Tucson is to ask friends and family members for recommendations. You can also check yelp and google reviews. Finally, don't be shy about scheduling tours at several different schools so that you can make an informed decision.
***Watch this page for new and updated information about kindergartens in Tucson.