School registration season officially has begun — at least in Sonoma County's largest school district.

Santa Rosa City Schools on Tuesday began enrollment for the 2012-13 school year, making available kindergarten applications and campus transfer forms, even as questions loom about the viability of the state's new transitional kindergarten program that has lost its funding under Gov. Jerry Brown's latest budget proposal.

Santa Rosa officials encouraged parents to go to their school of residence as a first step, even if their student is interested in transferring across the district or across the county.

"If they want to go to school in the neighborhood they live in, they go down to that school and register there," said Gail Eagan, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction at Santa Rosa City Schools. But if they the student to go to another school in the district — an intra-district transfer - they must specifically state in the paperwork the school boundary where they reside and which school they want to attend, she said. <NO1><NO>That should be filed with the principal of the neighborhood school.

Parents who live in the Santa Rosa district boundaries but want to send their student elsewhere are required to fill out a inter-district transfer form at the district office on which they are required to note the reason for the request. School board approval is required but Eagan called denials "rare." <NO1><NO>

"If people want to go, they are going to go," she said. "In some way or another, they will find a way to go, so the idea is we want to be partners with people in the education of their kids."

In the smaller districts surrounding Petaluma, officials have agreed to start their registration periods on the same day — Feb. 13<NO1><NO> — to eliminate both the appearance of competition for students and the state funding they bring, said Waugh Superintendent Bob Cmelak.

"If we don't at least set a date together, it seems like we are competing against each other for kindergarten registration," he said. "Number one, I think it puts us all on an even playing field and number two, it stops us from keep trying to up each other."

In Waugh, registration applications will be accepted between Feb. 13 and April 2. District officials give priority to students who live with the boundaries of their two schools and hold a lottery drawing for the remaining spaces.

Between 30-33 percent of Waugh's students are transfers from outside of district boundaries, according to Cmelak.

"You can see why it's a big deal to all of the small districts that are struggling with budget cuts that we maintain our inter-district transfers," he said.

On the heels of their largest kindergarten class ever at 470 students, officials in the Rincon Valley district in Santa Rosa are putting on hold any plans to pay for a new transitional kindergarten program mandated by a 2010 law.

Brown's plan proposes to save approximately $224 million in 2012-13 by moving the kindergarten birthday cutoff from Dec. 2 to Nov. 2 for next fall while not offering a transitional program for those students shut out of kindergarten.

In the coming years, the law requires that eligible kindergartners turn 5 by Oct. 2 in 2013-14 and by Sept. 1 in 2014-15. Theoretically, that would provide additional savings to state coffers if the state does not offer transitional kindergarten to the approximately 25 percent of children who would have been in kindergarten had the cut-off date not been changed.