The Long Beach Unified School District has seen a sharp drop-off in early education enrollment this year, with a more than 11% decline at the kindergarten level.
Overall enrollment was already declining in LBUSD but it had been a much more slow, steady drop until this year, according to the district.
At a recent Board of Education meeting LBUSD’s assistant superintendent in charge of school support services, Erin Simon, painted a picture of a district whose overall enrollment has remained fairly steady in light of the COVID-19 pandemic but taken a sharp dip with younger children. Simon’s presentation last week was based on preliminary numbers that the district finalized and released to the Post yesterday.
Some grade levels—such as ninth—increased their numbers, but the district’s overall enrollment sits at 70,268, a 2% decline from last year that’s about in line with the district’s general declining enrollment over the last decade.
The steepest drop was in transitional kindergarten (also known as TK or pre-K), which went from 1,030 students last year to 901 this year (a 12.5% decrease). Kindergarten enrollment fell from 4,926 in 2019 to 4,354 this year, a decrease of 11.6%.
The district pointed to the coronavirus as a factor.
“Because kindergarten is not compulsory, some parents may be hesitating to have their children participate until they know more about how the pandemic is unfolding,” said LBUSD spokesperson Chris Eftychiou. “On the other hand, some young families also may have simply moved out of town due to exacerbated cost of living or unemployment issues related to the pandemic. There could be a variety of factors affecting these numbers.”
Because many preschools and daycares are open for in-person instruction, some parents may also have decided to stay out of the district in order to continue receiving in-person instruction and daycare for their children, as opposed to doing virtual learning.
Eftychiou called the kindergarten numbers “a concern” for the district.
“We’ll be watching those numbers closely, and we’d like to shore up that enrollment,” he said. “The sooner a young child enters our school system, the better they tend to perform over the long term.”
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