Come September, New York City public schools may see fewer kindergarten students thanks to the pandemic’s effect on enrollment.
The city Department of Education said that 55,421 families applied for kindergarten by the January 22nd deadline, compared to nearly 63,000 families the year before, according to Chalkbeat — a drop of about 12% in applications. The DOE had previously reported that 3K enrollment was down 8% and pre-K enrollment down 13%.
The DOE said the decline mirrors national trends of decreased enrollment at public schools across the country before the pandemic thanks to a decline in birth rates. Still, the pandemic’s effects on enrollment was most evident in the lower grades since schooling in New York City isn’t mandatory until first grade.
While New York City still has the largest school district in the country, enrollment now stands at 960,000 students compared to the reported 1.1 million students in the 2018-2019 school year, a decline of 4% with about 43,000 students having left the system.
“We’re thrilled for the tens of thousands of families across the city who are receiving kindergarten offers today and marking the next milestone in their child’s educational journey. High-quality early education helps build a foundation of success for our students and this year shows more families getting an offer to their kindergarten of choice,” said DOE spokesperson Katie O’Hanlon in a statement Friday.
The DOE will work with any families who missed the registration deadline so that every child who applied for kindergarten will have a seat in September, O’Hanlon added.
More students this year received an offer to one of the choices on their application, the DOE said, with 75% of students getting a seat at their top choice and 88% receiving an offer at one of their top three choices.
There are 72 students who are currently waitlisted for a kindergarten seat at their zoned schools, a decrease from previous years, and the DOE noted that there are always shifts through the spring and summer as families move in and out of the city.
Mayor Bill de Blasio echoed the point Friday to WNYC’s Brian Lehrer, saying he expected the city’s recovery to lure families back.
“A lot of people who have been away are coming back. I expect a lot of people who are not sure what they wanted to do in terms of their kids’ education will solidify their plans,” de Blasio said.
Meanwhile, the city’s deadline for opting into hybrid learning from full-time remote learning ended Friday. While the final numbers were not immediately available, de Blasio told WNYC on Friday that more than 40,000 students have applied to return to classrooms for in-person learning.
The vast majority of the public school students are still enrolled in remote-only learning, at about 700,000 of the 960,000 student population before the opt-in deadline ended Friday.
To help minimize school closures, this week de Blasio and education officials announced that starting Monday the DOE will slightly loosen its COVID-19 response protocols from a “two-case” rule to a “four-case” rule. Schools will close only when there are four reported cases of COVID-19 in different classrooms within a week that are traced to a known exposure inside the school, a change from the previous policy that closed buildings if there were two or more unconnected cases from any source inside or outside the school community.
With reporting by Jessica Gould