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Ohio preschool enrollment drops during COVID-19 pandemic, could impact kids' development

Ohio preschool enrollment drops during COVID-19 pandemic, could impact kids' development
Posted at 8:32 PM, Feb 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-27 23:16:48-05

CLEVELAND — Troubling new data suggests that Ohio’s youngest students may be falling behind during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Public preschools saw a 27% drop in enrollment during the 2020-2021 school year.

According to data from Ohio’s Department of Education, 53,000 (3%) fewer students enrolled in the state’s pre-k through grade 12 public schools between fall 2019 and fall 2020.

By comparison, the department said decreases in enrollment over the prior three years ranged between 0.03% and 0.4%.

Preschool and kindergarten enrollment dropped the most, representing almost half of the total decrease across all grade levels with 27% (15,000) fewer preschoolers and 8% fewer kindergartners (10,000) in school this year.

“Not going to preschool, not registering when your child is eligible, could have a major delay in your child's learning capabilities,” Erica Marks, the youth outreach and programming coordinator at the Cleveland Public Library, said.

Marks said those delays include not being able to read certain words or how to use classroom tools like scissors or a computer mouse.

The delays could also possibly continue as kids grow older.

Your child may not be reading as far as reading is concerned at their grade level,” Marks said. “Their ability to comprehend their schoolwork, it may not be there and that delay can continue on.”

Data shows hundreds of kids in Northeast Ohio could be at risk for learning loss.

ODE’s data shows 1884 kids enrolled in preschool in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District in fall 2019. Compare that to 966 in fall 2020.

Preschool enrollment also dropped in Akron City Schools from 612 students in 2019 to 442 in 2020.

“My biggest piece of advice is to keep learning at home. That is the most important thing if you can,” Marks said.

Marks suggests parents who have concerns about enrolling their kids in school read to them at home and play games to help them learn.

They can also sign them up for the library’s Young Scholars Academy.

“Our staff has been trained in that area to prepare students for kindergarten. So when they get done with our program, they're on their way to kindergarten,” Marks said.

But no matter which route parents take, Marks said consistency is key for helping kids succeed.

“We have to keep them engaged. We have to find new and innovative and fun ways to keep the kids learning because the last year has been pretty rough on everybody,” Marks said.

More information about CPL’s Young Scholars Academy can be found here.

Jade Jarvis is a reporter at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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