News4 I-Team

Kindergarten Enrollment Uncertain Due to COVID-19

NBC Universal, Inc.

Kindergarten registration has been impacted – and in some cases delayed – by the emergency school closures amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Public records reviewed by the News-4 I-Team show a decline in kindergarten sign-ups by parents in Washington, D.C. and neighboring Montgomery County this year compared to the same time period in May 2019. 

Kindergarten orientation was delayed by nearly a month in the District and remains delayed in Prince George’s County.    

Montgomery County Public Schools records show a decline of approximately ten percent in registrations. The school district expects parents are delaying submission of needed registration paperwork, not forgoing kindergarten for their five-year-olds.    

“Some of our families are taking a wait and see approach. They want to know more about what school will look like,” said Montgomery County Public Schools director of learning, achievement and administration Sarah Sirgo. 

In D.C. Public Schools, the delayed opening of kindergarten registration has contributed to a 66 percent drop in sign-ups compared to May 2019, the I-Team found.

A D.C. Public Schools spokesman said, “More families enroll each day. In addition, DCPS is doing regular robocalls, robotexts, email blasts, social media campaigns, and similar strategies to push enrollment. We feel confident that we will continue to see increases in enrollment every day.”

Researchers said parents of five-year-olds should continue with registrations, despite the cancellation of in-school orientations this Spring.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, we know that parents are anxious about their young children returning to school or child care. We encourage all families to enroll their kindergarten aged children for the upcoming school year,” said Ann-Marie Faria of the American Institutes for Research. 

Faria said, “We also encourage each school and district to carefully consider the changes needed to keep students and staff safe. By safe, we mean both physically and mentally healthy. It will be so important to meet the mental health needs of our youngest kiddos as they transition into kindergarten in the fall.”

Other school districts have expanded their registration programs to allow more electronic submissions. 

A spokeswoman for Prince William County Public Schools said, “In light of the COVID-19 closure, PWCS expanded online registration to include all grade levels, in multiple languages, K-12, and have provided the ability for parents to upload supporting documentation. This new process allows new students to be enrolled without requiring paper or in person visits to the schools.”

Loudoun County Public Schools spokesman Wayde Byard said, “LCPS has sent current parent messages encouraging them to register their student online, providing links and encouraging them to share this information with neighbors.  Registrars were provided training on how to register students online and parents are allowed to submit required documents virtually and upload documents directly; these changes were made to decrease barriers and still meet VDOE requirements.”

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