COVID-19 impact: Some educators concerned as kindergarten enrollment down across Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Bay Area school districts say kindergarten enrollment is down this year. Some parents opted not to enroll their 4 and 5-year-olds in distance learning. Now educators are worried the kids won't be ready for first grade.

Bay Area mom Sara Mauskopf has her hands full.

"Here's us just getting ready for preschool in the morning we've got Bryn and Aubrey and Ryan who is providing moral support," said Mauskopf in a home video she shared with ABC7 News.

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5-year-old Bryn was supposed to enter kindergarten this year but Mauskopf made a different decision.

"I decided to keep my 5-year-old in an extra year of preschool instead of sending her to kindergarten like was planned once I heard kindergarten would be over Zoom," said Mauskopf.

Mauskopf says she's paying for another year of private preschool so that her daughter will be surrounded by other children in-person.

"So much of kindergarten is about developing a love for school and about the interaction with other children and I felt that both those things would be much harder in a virtual setting," said Mauskopf.

She's not alone.

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Districts across the Bay Area say kindergarten enrollment is down.

John Swett Unified School District in Contra Costa County typically has 4 kindergarten classrooms and 1 transitional kindergarten or TK classroom.

"But this year we have 3 kindergarten classrooms and a half of a TK so our enrollment was at least 25% reduced in kindergarten and almost 50% reduced in transitional kindergarten," said Superintendent Charles Miller.

Santa Clara Unified School District's kindergarten enrollment is down nearly 17% this year compared to last year.

While Oakland Unified School District's kindergarten enrollment is down nearly 11% this year compared to last year.

"It's significant for us, it's significant for all of our districts and our country where you have a large number of students who are not enrolled in school. We know it's going to leave an impact behind for them and it's also going to require us to think differently about how we're going to catch those students up," said Miller.

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Miller says it's district policy that children enter school at the grade level appropriate for their age, meaning children whose parents opted not to enroll them in kindergarten this year will still enter first grade next year.

"We're thinking a lot about some kind of summer bootcamp," said Miller.

"We want to find a way to bring kids in early and do some really intensive skill development around letter names, letter sounds, colors, shapes. All of those key skills children learn in kindergarten including reading, fluency, writing," he continued.

Mauskopf whose daughter Bryn is in a different district says she's taking it one year at a time.

"If I feel she isn't ready for first grade there's a possibility of having her do kindergarten next year," said Mauskopf.

"The more we pay attention to what's really going on with COVID-19 and the impact on our educational system the better chance we have of ensuring our kids are going to be successful down the road, but if we don't address it, it's going to fester," said Miller.

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