GRAND LEDGE, Mich. — Kindergarten enrollment in Michigan took a hit during the 2020-2021 school year. The coronavirus pandemic is largely to blame and some schools in mid-Michigan neighborhoods, experienced it firsthand.
According to Michigan’s Official Education Data Source, statewide, there were 106,539 kindergarten students for the 2020-2021 school year, which is down about 13,000 students compared to the 2019-2020 school year when there were 120,133 kindergarten students.
That trend hit home in Grand Ledge. The director of communications for Grand Ledge Public Schools, John Ellsworth, said in the fall of 2019, they had about 460 kindergarteners. Come the fall of 2020, they had about 350.
“I think parents were happy to keep their kids home. Kindergarten is not a part of the required curriculum for the state government," Ellsworth said. "So, parents were allowed to say, you know what, we will redshirt our kindergartner, and we will send them back when things are a little more normal.
Jerriell Kesler is a parent in the Grand Ledge School District and said she thought about not enrolling her son Dameon in kindergarten this past school year but, in the end, made the decision to enroll him.
“I just feel that kindergarten is where you acquire so many of the skills. The counting, the reading, your first words. It’s fun too. It’s the funnest school year. I just didn’t want him to miss out on that,” Kesler said.
Now some may wonder what it was like teaching kindergartners virtually. Jenny Jarrard is a kindergarten teacher at Grand Ledge. She’s been teaching Pre-school through second grade for 17 years and kindergarten for 14 years.
She said there were a lot of new challenges teaching virtually for students, teachers, and parents. Jarrard said she thought about what worked in the classroom during a normal year and tried to adapt it to a virtual environment.
“I did a lot of small group teaching because I know that works very well for young kids," Jarrard said "And that’s what I do in my classroom often. So that was one thing I really focused on like virtually and also just kind of thinking about making it fun and being really positive with them.”
Jarrard said her class size usually has about 25 students, but last year she had 20.
At this time the district doesn't have an exact number of how many kids are enrolled for the upcoming year. Ellsworth expects to have a better idea closer to the first day of school.
“So back to normal probably plus a little higher. So, 460, 500 might be what we expect,” said Ellsworth.
Over in Charlotte, superintendent Mandy Stewart said in the last five years, they saw a rise in enrollment but then a decline last year because of COVID-19. Stewart said it’s possible that they may have double the number of students coming into kindergarten this year.
“I do think we will see an increase, especially because we’re open live, and there are many parents who are excited to have their students start school again, especially in a face-to-face environment,” Stewart said.
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