CLEVELAND — Registering for Kindergarten is a big step, but the pandemic has put a lot of families in a tough spot.
During the 2020-2021 school year, the Ohio Department of Education reported 10,000 fewer (or 8% less) kindergarten students enrolled in Ohio schools. The department said this decrease, along with a decrease in preschool enrollment, represented almost half of the total decrease in enrollment across all grade levels.
"I think there’s always going to be a fear as long as COVID is out there," Heather Miller, the director of curriculum for North Ridgeville City Schools said.
So heading into a new school year, are districts across Northeast Ohio bouncing back?
"Kindergarten specifically has returned to pre-pandemic numbers," said Josh Englehar, the superintendent of Painesville City Local Schools.
Englehart said as of this week their district has just over 200 kindergarten students enrolled. Last fall the district reported about a 22% decline in Kindergarten enrollment.
However, Englehart said with enrollments still coming in the first week of school, he anticipates to be even higher than their usual pre-pandemic enrollment numbers.
"That indicates to me that there were some families who opted for another alternative last year but we are seeing those families come back, so we're certainly encouraged by that," he said.
On the west side of Northeast Ohio, North Ridgeville is seeing an increase as well.
"We've recouped the loss that we saw last year and we're right back to where we started and I anticipate there's going to be a couple more enrollments this week as we continue on," Miller said.
As of this Tuesday this week, the district had 330 students registered.
"I'm excited because it says that parents are understanding that the best place for their kids is in school," Miller said.
Other districts are seeing their numbers return too.
In 2020 Massillon City Schools had 279 Kindergarten students. This year the district reported 310 registered students so far.
Medina is also reporting an increase. Last school year there were 354 students in kindergarten. This school year, so far, there are more than 400 enrolled.
"If a kid is in a very print rich, language rich, experience rich environment at home that extra year isn't necessarily a bad thing," said Englehart.
But for some children that extra year out of the classroom can put them a bit behind.
Both Miller and Englehart said their teachers and staff are prepared to address any and all learning gaps.
"We've been working with teachers to identify where those gaps are so that we can provide some interventions early on to get kids caught up," said Miller.
“Any child who comes through our doors we pick them up where they are and we accelerate them from where they’re coming in," Englehart said.
If you still need to register your child for kindergarten, contact your local school district immediately.