(a) County boards shall provide kindergarten programs for all children who have attained the age of five prior to September 1, of the school year in which the pupil enters the kindergarten program and may, pursuant to the provisions of section forty-four, article five, chapter eighteen of this code, establish kindergarten programs designed for children below the age of five. The programs for children who shall have attained the age of five shall be full- day everyday programs.
(b) Persons employed as kindergarten teachers, as distinguished from paraprofessional personnel, shall be required to hold a certificate valid for teaching at the assigned level as prescribed by rules established by the state board. The state board shall establish the minimum requirements for all paraprofessional personnel employed in kindergarten programs established pursuant to the provisions of this section and no such paraprofessional personnel may be employed in any kindergarten program unless he or she meets the minimum requirements. Beginning July 1, 2014, any person previously employed as an aide in a kindergarten program and who is employed in the same capacity on and after that date and any new person employed in that capacity in a kindergarten program on and after that date shall hold the position of aide and either Early Childhood Classroom Assistant Teacher I, Early Childhood Classroom Assistant Teacher II or Early Childhood Classroom Assistant Teacher III. Any person employed as an aide in a kindergarten program that is eligible for full retirement benefits before July 1, 2020, may remain employed as an aide in that position and shall be granted an Early Childhood Classroom Assistant Teacher permanent authorization by the state superintendent pursuant to section two-a, article three, chapter eighteen-a of this code.
(c) The state board with the advice of the state superintendent shall establish and prescribe guidelines and criteria relating to the establishment, operation and successful completion of kindergarten programs in accordance with the other provisions of this section. Guidelines and criteria so established and prescribed also are intended to serve for the establishment and operation of nonpublic kindergarten programs and shall be used for the evaluation and approval of those programs by the state superintendent, provided application for the evaluation and approval is made in writing by proper authorities in control of the programs. The state superintendent, annually, shall publish a list of nonpublic kindergarten programs, including Montessori kindergartens that have been approved in accordance with the provisions of this section. Montessori kindergartens established and operated in accordance with usual and customary practices for the use of the Montessori method which have teachers who have training or experience, regardless of additional certification, in the use of the Montessori method of instruction for kindergartens shall be considered to be approved.
(d) Pursuant to the guidelines and criteria, and only pursuant to the guidelines and criteria, the county boards may establish programs taking kindergarten to the homes of the children involved, using educational television, paraprofessional personnel in addition to and to supplement regularly certified teachers, mobile or permanent classrooms and other means developed to best carry kindergarten to the child in its home and enlist the aid and involvement of its parent or parents in presenting the program to the child; or may develop programs of a more formal kindergarten type, in existing school buildings, or both, as the county board may determine, taking into consideration the cost, the terrain, the existing available facilities, the distances each child may be required to travel, the time each child may be required to be away from home, the child's health, the involvement of parents and other factors as each county board may find pertinent. The determinations by any county board are final and conclusive.