School districts across the United States are hiring additional teachers in anticipation of what will be one of the largest kindergarten classes ever as enrollment rebounds following the coronavirus pandemic, per the AP. As they await the arrival next fall of students who sat out the current school year, educators are also bracing for many students to be less prepared than usual due to lower preschool attendance rates. Kindergarten is not required in most states, and in normal times, parents sometimes “red-shirt” children who would be young for their kindergarten class to give them an extra year of developmental readiness. This year, even children nowhere near the cutoff age were held out of school because of health concerns and the disruptions caused by the pandemic.
With large amounts of federal relief money available, school districts are taking a range of approaches to prepare. In Orange County, Florida, there are estimates that the incoming kindergarten class will be 17% bigger than in fall 2020 and officials are planning a 5 1/2 week transition program this summer at some of its neediest schools. In Minnesota, the St. Paul district is anticipating nearly 22% more kindergartners than in fall 2020. The district plans to do testing over the summer to identify any special needs that have been missed. It remains uncertain just how big kindergarten classes will be in the fall. The increase could be offset by parents who decide to wait an extra year to send 5-year-olds or opt for homeschooling because of safety concerns. Regardless, education leaders say they expect to be addressing the effects of the pandemic for years.
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