Data shows many kindergarten families did not enroll kids this fall

This school year, many families with incoming kindergarteners decided to hold back their students with many school districts only starting off with remote learning.

Data obtained by Q13 News shows a large population of kindergarten families chose not to enroll.

The enrollment numbers are important because it could impact the amount of funding each district receives annually. Usually, the state calculates actual enrollment numbers to dole out funds. Enrollment data is also used to make a case for the following year when it comes to funding.

Lesley Irizarry-Hogan, a mother of an incoming kindergartener, wanted nothing more than to send her 5-year-old daughter, Ruby, off to mingle with her peers at Lawton Elementary School in Seattle this fall.

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"The social, emotional learning is super important for her developmentally," said Hogan.

After trying preschool online, Hogan said her family opted to make the hard decision to not enroll their daughter in kindergarten this year.

"They did a fantastic job, super engaging, but they couldn't hold her attention for over an hour at a time so she would watch preschool for an hour and she would go and play," Hogan said.

Seattle Public Schools has roughly 720 fewer kindergartners than the district projected. 

"It's kind of surprising that so many people made that decision, maybe last minute like we did," said Hogan.

SPS receives around $10,000 per student. The decline in student enrollment numbers could possibly mean a loss in millions of dollars for school districts.

Although those funds are per student, school districts use those dollars collectively to benefit the entire system.

"It would be interesting to see what happens next year," said Hogan.

With so many kindergarteners held back, another impact could be large class sizes next fall if districts can't find ways to mitigate.

"It is worrisome, obviously. When she starts kindergarten I would like her to be in a smaller class, not in a huge class, where she can get more individualized attention," said Hogan.

Hogan is an attorney working full-time so her mom, a former teacher, has stepped in to homeschool Ruby while Hogan's husband has taken leave from his job to help with teaching their oldest two kids.

"It`s been a challenge. It`s working for us right now. We don`t know what we are going to do in January when he has to go back to work," said Hogan.

In addition to SPS, the Issaquah School District says they have 201 fewer kindergarteners than projected. 

Meanwhile, Lake Washington School District says they have 60 fewer kindergarteners. Kindergarten enrollment is one piece of the bigger picture, however, because Lake Washingto SD says they have around 800 fewer students overall. Those declines mean the district could receive $8.3 million less than anticipated. The district says impacts will be over the course of the 2020-2021 school year.

The state superintendent of public instruction's office is expected to release data on enrollment for all grades across the state on Wednesday.