An analysis by The New York Times in conjunction with Stanford University found that in 33 states, 10,000 public schools lost at least 20 percent of their kindergartners between fall 2019 and fall 2020. The major enrollment decline drive appears to be directly related to the coronavirus pandemic and a Stanford research paper suggests fully remote school districts took a heavier hit. While there were declines in previous years, they were less drastic — in 2019 and in 2018, for example, the Times writes that only about 4,000 schools hit the 20 percent threshold.
"We have to be deeply concerned," Thomas Dee, a professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Education, told the Times. Kindergarten may be optional in many states, but the Times notes that educators consider it crucial in the long run, not only because students receive their introduction to numbers, the alphabet, and phonics during that time, but also because it's often when students are first diagnosed with disabilities like autism spectrum disorder.
Worse still, schools in lower income areas bore the brunt of it. One example highlighted by the Times was Linapuni Elementary School in Honolulu, Hawaii. The school sits in a public housing complex and many of its students are reportedly from Pacific Islander immigrant families that do not speak English. Its enrollment declined by half, from 65 to 32 in the fall, and only 10 of the missing students returned when classrooms reopened for in-person learning in the new year. Read more at The New York Times.