Principals from local public elementary schools are reporting a dip in kindergarten enrollment for the 2011-12 year. They are urging parents at their schools to encourage neighbors with small children to sign up as soon as possible both to avoid staffing reductions and to familiarize incoming kindergarteners with his or her new school.
Rebeca Witt, principal of , says, “Yes, I am concerned. The drop in enrollment is a pattern. Two years ago, we had 80 kindergarteners. This school year the total was 63. As of today, we have only 48 students enrolled for the fall. We typically see another ten or so enroll over the summer but we’d like to see more.”
In a recent newsletter, Principal Bill Card stated, “We are short in our numbers right now and have a possibility that we could lose a teacher if we do not make our numbers. I know [the parents/students] are out there. They are out there every year and they wait until August.”
Not having final numbers until August makes it very difficult to plan staffing. Teachers may have been reassigned or laid off over the summer based on the enrollment numbers reported the prior June. And scrambling for a teacher in the fall is never ideal. Last year at Mountain Avenue, a substitute had to be hired for the start of school.
Enrolling your kindergartener now is not only good for the school district, it’s good for your child. Susan Hoge, principal of , advises, “Enrolling early allows parents and children to get to know their new school before fall. They’ll receive summer mailings and automated phone calls, they can read the school newsletter and visit the school, such as at our Open House next Thursday, May 26th. It also gives parents time to pull together all the pieces required for enrollment, such as birth certificates and shot records.”
Monte Vista Elementary is somewhat unique as it's been seeing the same or slightly better kindergarten enrollment than last year. This is most likely due to its popular dual language (Korean-English) immersion program. Still, most of the schools are seeing a dip in numbers.
Principals speculate that the faltering economy is driving the drop. Young families may find it difficult to move into the upscale neighborhoods of La Crescenta and Montrose. Also, uncertainty in the state education budget may be pushing parents to private schools, which they perceive of as more stable.
Principal Witt believes there is nothing like attending your local public school. “You don’t get that same sense of community if you’re out of the area,” she says. “There are more opportunities for play with local schoolmates. Also, our school is strong and comprehensive with programs in art, music, physical education and a new beefed-up science program.”
In any case, it can be risky to wait to enroll. Principal Card warns, “Students may have to attend another school if they are too late to enter. We send students away every year from Lincoln depending on the grade level.” Principal Witt plans to take a proactive approach by appealing to local realtors. “I’d like to ask them to encourage families that are new to the neighborhood to enroll their kindergarteners as soon as possible to secure their spot.”