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San Diego Unified Grappling With Significant Drop In Kindergarten Enrollment

The San Diego Unified School District headquarters is shown on March 19, 2020.

Photo by Zoë Meyers / inewsource

Above: The San Diego Unified School District headquarters is shown on March 19, 2020.

San Diego Unified reported 2,474 fewer students than it expected this year. About two-thirds of that deficit came from kindergarten. While the pandemic is the obvious main culprit, district leaders are trying to get a handle on the specific reasons.

“It’s not mandatory for students to attend kindergarten, so we might have some families that are making a choice not to enroll,” said Richard Barrera, school board vice president at San Diego Unified. “We might have other families that aren’t clear about how to enroll.”

Listen to this story by Joe Hong.

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Teachers say this drop in enrollment raises major long-term concerns.

“Kindergarten is the starting place for their education,” said Molly Stewart, a kindergarten teacher at Ocean Beach Elementary. “In kindergarten, they’re learning to read, write and work together.”

Stewart said some of her families have opted for homeschooling instead of online learning through the district.

“Because they’re concerned about the amount of screen time for their students,” she said. “ And so, they’re finding alternatives, and they let us know that as soon as we return to in-person they’ll be returning.”

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Stewart said teachers try everything they can to keep their students, including providing more supports and flexible schedules. Barrera said the district is still making an effort to enroll more kindergarten students even though the school year has started.

“We’ll get the student a laptop. The student will have access to our free and reduced lunch program,” he said. “There are so many reasons why we think students are better off by going ahead and enrolling in kindergarten.”

Other districts have also seen dips in enrollment. Chula Vista Elementary is down by close to 600 students.

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Photo of Joe Hong

Joe Hong
Education Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksAs an education reporter, I'm always looking for stories about learning. My favorite education stories put a student's face on bigger policy issues. I regularly sift through enrollment data, test scores and school budgets, but telling student-centered stories is my top priority.

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