DENVER — The pandemic saw more Colorado parents pulling their kids out of daycare, and “redshirting” kindergarten-age students. The state saw a 23% drop in preschooler enrollment, and a 9% drop in kindergarten enrollment, as part of an overall school enrollment decline.
Kindergarten teachers are aware of the challenges they’ll face with potentially more students and a range of preschool experiences. But they say, in kindergarten, that’s normal.
“In a typical year. you'll have a kid who comes in who's reading, and in your typical year, you'll have kids who come in who don't know the letters of their name, and that's all normal,” said Elizabeth Smart, a kindergarten teacher at Stober Elementary School in Lakewood.
Anji Gallanos, Director of preschool through third grade for the Colorado Department of Education, said the state does have defined goals for preschool and kindergarten students. But there isn’t an expectation that every student will be on the same page at the beginning of the year.
“In Colorado, we also expect assessment to happen in the first 30 days of kindergarten entry to help teachers really understand what children know coming in and what they should be able to do,” said Gallanos.
There are some questions about whether kindergarten class sizes will be bigger next year because of pandemic redshirting, parents postponing kids from enrolling in kindergarten. The drop in kindergarten enrollment indicates that some families chose to hold back students who may have been close to the cutoff for kindergarten entry age.
At Stober Elementary, leaders hope to manage any increase in students.
“I’m pretty particular about kindergarten, because I don't want class sizes to be so overwhelming that we can't meet individual student needs,” said Principal Anne DiCola.
DiCola pointed out that the kindergarten classrooms already get extra support staff. Smith said she feels ready for a new round of kindergartners, and is excited for a more normal school year.
“Half of kindergarten is the social part,” Smith said.