July 12, 2021

WILX: Kindergarten enrollment rates down in Mid-Michigan

Kindergarten enrollments may be bouncing back in Michigan after taking a huge dip last year because of the pandemic.

During the 2019-20 academic year, there were around 120,000 kindergarten students in the state. One year later, it was down to 106,000, a decline that schools hadn’t seen in a long time.

“Prior to the pandemic, we had started to see a net increase in kindergarten enrollment. Of course after the pandemic, we saw it drop,” Dr. Sean Williams said, Deputy Superintendent for Eaton RESA. “We spent a lot of time, especially our early on and early childhood staff, going to fairs and different events around the county to market enrollment.”

Schools are trying to get more families on board for kindergarten and it’s not just a statewide issue, but one here in greater Lansing.

Ingham Intermediate School District saw a decline from 3,580 to 3,154. Jackson Intermediate School District had 2,209 and that went down to 1,985. Eaton RESA saw 1,111 which declined to 931. Clinton RESA had 831 and that went down to 770.

“We haven’t seen that dip in at least the past five years. We considered that with the pandemic, that we would see a dip,” Dr. Williams said. “We heard from a lot of families, they’re really concerned about student health.”

Mask wearing in the classroom and not giving their child the real kindergarten experience were big concerns too. As COVID-19 protocols become more relaxed, schools could face an increase in kindergartners after many stayed home over the last year. School districts are discussing how they’d face that.

“Kindergarten is always hard to predict,,” Dr. Williams said. “If there is a massive influx, then you would see probably teachers be re-assigned from other grade levels to support kindergarten.”

“We’re ready to accommodate a reasonable increase in kindergartners. We have four different neighborhood elementary schools and they’re turning into K-4 buildings,” said John Ellsworth, Director of Communications for Grand Ledge Public Schools. “When you talk about physical space and room, we’re actually better able to accommodate adjustments in enrollments.”

Both schools districts say they’ve heard positive feedback for this upcoming academic year and hope to have full kindergarten classrooms come this fall.