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Kindergarten Requirements for the State of South Dakota

Kindergarten Requirements for the State of South Dakota

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Although South Dakota does not mandate fully funded full-day kindergarten, kindergarten attendance is required to move on to 1st grade, even if the child enters kindergarten at 6 years of age. In addition, there are full-day monies available from the state for participating districts, which accounts for South Dakota’s high full-day kindergarten participation rating at 80 to 89 percent. Here are the top laws and requirements in place for students entering kindergarten in the state of South Dakota.

Kindergarten Mandatory

In South Dakota, kindergarten is mandatory, with all children being required to attend kindergarten before the age of 7. In support of this, all districts must offer at minimum a half-day kindergarten program.

Full-Day Kindergarten Not Required

South Dakota does not require its districts to fund and operate more than a half-day kindergarten program. As stated in South Dakota law, all half-day kindergarten programs must at minimum run for 2.5 hours per day and approximately 437.5 hours per year (as the number of school days in the state is traditionally set at the local level). According to an Education Week study published in 2015, between 80 and 89 percent of South Dakota’s kindergarten students were enrolled in full-day programs.

Educational Standards: Common Core

Common Core standards in English/language arts and mathematics were adopted by the South Dakota Department of Education in November, 2010, with full implementation occurring in the 2014–2015 school year. South Dakota also has state standards in place focused on literacy in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects.

Current Age Requirements

To be eligible for kindergarten in South Dakota, a student must have turned the age of 5 on or before September 1 of that same school year. The compulsory school age in South Dakota is age 6.

Early Entry Rules

In South Dakota, children who do not meet the age requirement for kindergarten may still enroll if they have already been enrolled in a recognized kindergarten in another state.

Required Immunizations and Available Exemptions

In order to attend school in South Dakota, students must have proof of all required immunizations (or a valid exemption as discussed below). Required immunizations include DTaP, polio, MMR, and varicella. In addition, Hib, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and pneumococcal vaccines are recommended but not required. See the list of required vaccinations here.

South Dakota law allows for vaccine exemptions based on medical and religious grounds. A medical exemption requires certification from a licensed physician stating that the physical condition of the child is such that immunization would endanger the child’s life or health. For religious exemptions, a written statement signed by a parent or guardian is required, stating that the child is an adherent to a religious doctrine that’s opposed to immunization.

Pre-Entrance Testing/Screening Requirements

In South Dakota, kindergarten entrance assessments are not required according to statute.

Maximum Teacher to Pupil Ratio

South Dakota does not specify in its state laws a maximum teacher to student ratio for kindergarten classrooms.

Early Learning Guidelines

In South Dakota, there are early learning state standards in place that govern all core subjects to better prepare students for kindergarten. Other areas addressed in these guidelines include approaches to learning, the creative arts, health and physical development, and social/emotional development.


All of these laws and requirements are reviewed in great detail on the South Dakota Department of Education website.

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