Ohio school districts preparing for possible post-pandemic surge in kindergarten enrollment

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MIAMI VALLEY, Ohio (WDTN) – School districts throughout the state are bracing for a huge kindergarten turnout this fall. Academic experts say it’s largely due to a lot of parents holding their child back a year during the pandemic.

A new report from Rutgers University found 71% of 4-year-olds participated in preschool before the pandemic, but that number fell to 54% last year as many children were held out of school. Now, education experts are expecting a big rebound when school returns to normal.

Valley View Local Schools Superintendent Ben Richards says, “We’re anticipating a 20% increase from what we had last year. That’s what we know is already on the books. And we still have an entire summer to go.”

The incoming kindergarten class at Valley View Local Schools in Germantown is already at around 150 students, with more expected to enroll throughout the summer. Last year the class was at 120 students. Another kindergarten teacher has already been hired, and the district is working to understand how the budget could be impacted in the future.

Superintendent Richards says, “We can weather this for right now, and we have budgeted for that. Whether that’s something we need to budget long-term still remains to be seen.”

Lisa Radigan’s daughter will start kindergarten in the fall. She says keeping class sizes low matters. “Having more of that one-on-one attention, and just an ability to have the kids adjust to school is important.”

Administrators at Kettering City Schools are not seeing a jump yet, but they are preparing for a surge just in case. Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning Dan Von Handorf says, “It seems we always have a rush right at kindergarten enrollment week, when we have a lot of families that register. Then we have another rush toward the end of July, which is difficult for staffing to make sure we have appropriate staffing levels.”

In Kettering, the hiring process begins in February and usually ends in June, so they have to use a 5-year average to predict the class sizes. Von Handorf says, “It’s probably more important this year than ever that families register early to allow districts to make sure class numbers are at an acceptable level.”

Superintendent Richards says his district is also working to best address social and emotional needs outside the classroom.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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