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Local school districts see drop in kindergarten enrollment, learning loss

Local school districts see drop in kindergarten enrollment, learning loss
Posted at 6:33 PM, Feb 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-15 20:33:04-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — The State Department of Education says enrollment dropped by 38,000 students from 2020 to 2021. Around 40% of that decline were kids in preschool and kindergarten.

“Enrollment dropped, parents were not comfortable with the online instruction we’re offering,” said Mercy Arancon, the Instructional Coach of Ajo Schools.

Tucson saw a similar drop in kindergarten enrollment during the pandemic. Tucson Unified School District saw a 21% drop from 2019 to 2020. Sahuarita Unified saw 31% fewer students, and Tanque Verde Unified saw 14% less.

“Them not confident that we can offer them the best education for their kids, they pulled out their kids and chose to homeschool their child or enroll them in a different virtual academy,” Arancon said.

The drop in kindergarten enrollment has impacted school district budgets, which are determined on a per-student basis.

“This year’s budget was affected," Arancon said. "At the beginning of the year our district was not as confident to get more teachers because our district wasn’t sure if the families or kids would come back.”

Arancon says parents were hesitant to enroll their kids during the pandemic because of online learning.

“Families tried, and then it just didn’t work. Some kids would be crying facing a computer and they would just not like it.”

Learning loss also affected kids who were enrolled.

“Happening this school year, we could see our first graders are not ready for first grade lessons,” Arancon said.

As schools return to in-person learning, these concerns have lessened. So far, 2022 has more students returning to the classroom. Data from this month shows increased kindergarten enrollment across Pima County school districts.

“The best education can only be offered in a regular setting, where they come to a school.”