Kindergarten in NC Shows Dwindling Student Enrollment

Kindergarten in NC Shows Dwindling Student Enrollment

Fewer parents across the state are enrolling their children in kindergarten this year. According to a report from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI), kindergarten enrollment is down significantly in NC for the 2020-2021 school year.

Why are so many parents holding their children out of public kindergartens? And what effect could this year’s depressed kindergarten enrollment have on the future of education in NC?

Kindergarten Enrollment Numbers Are Way Down in NC

The NCDPI report released in October shows that 15,000 fewer students enrolled in kindergarten this year than last year. While public school enrollment has dropped across the board, the 13% drop in kindergarten was the largest of any grade level.

Kindergarten enrollment in NC has dropped significantly in 2020.
Source: NCDPI.
Infographic courtesy of David Straughan/Flourish.

Schools across the state have seen 62,000 fewer students this school year. Kindergarten enrollment numbers account for nearly 25% of that overall decrease.

Why Kindergarten Enrollment Numbers Dropped in NC

Enrollment in Kindergarten in NC is on the decline this year
Image courtesy of Gautam Arora on Unsplash.

A rise in homeschooling accounts for some of that drop in public school registration. After steadily increasing over the last decade, homeschooling saw a spike during the 2019-2020 school year with a 5% increase in enrollment.

With more parents working from home and students having trouble making adjustments to e-learning, the numbers are expected to continue to rise dramatically. The State of North Carolina Non-Public Education System uses an online portal to allow parents and guardians to register a new home school. This summer, parents crashed the site the day it opened.

Private school enrollment figures will not be available until the end of the fiscal year. However, they are likely another factor in declining public school kindergarten enrollment in NC.

About “Redshirting”

Many parents are simply choosing to not enroll their students in kindergarten of any kind this year.

North Carolina is one of 31 states that does not require kindergarten for students. School districts in NC must offer kindergarten, but neither enrollment nor attendance in public schools is compulsory before age seven.

kindergarten enrollment nc image
Image courtesy of Erika Fletcher on Unsplash.

Holding a child back from kindergarten is colloquially called “redshirting.” Even prior to COVID-19, some parents redshirted their children as a strategic move. Proponents say that redshirting gives children a chance to mature and be better prepared for kindergarten.

Potential Issues on the Horizon

Opponents of redshirting say it can create an imbalance in the classroom. Educators design kindergarten curriculum for children between ages five and six. Children who are seven years old have different competencies and academic needs.

While teachers can account for those differences across a few students, some worry that the 2021-2022 school year may see a large number of “redshirt” kindergartners.

Such a large increase could make it difficult for teachers to plan lessons. It could also create class size issues. North Carolina currently requires kindergarten classes to include 20 or fewer students. A larger-than-expected kindergarten enrollment could cause educators to face major space shortages.

Image courtesy of BBC Creative on Unsplash.

Whatever the reason, the data show that there is a major shift in enrollment figures this year. Whether that change is permanent or limited to this school year remains to be seen.

Want to read more about what North Carolina’s educators are doing to help kids struggling with e-learning? Or learn how Wake County Schools are handling e-learning this year? Keep an eye on North Carolina News Daily for more education news from the Tar Heel State.