Pre-K, kindergarten enrollment lagging in Clayton County Schools

Clayton County Schools Superintendent Morcease Beasley had a message Tuesday for parents who have not enrolled their children in pre-K or kindergarten classes.

Skipping those formative educational years for youngest learners could leave them behind. And it could cost the district money when fewer kids are served than in the past.

About 705 children were enrolled in pre-K as of Tuesday, Beasley said. Normally, that number would be about 830-840 students. In kindergarten, enrollment so far this year is around 2,900 compared to the more typical 3,500 to 3,600 youngsters.

“Parents, families I need your support,” he said during a YouTube Live presentation. “We need you to take advantage of these available seats.”

Beasley’s comments come as metro Atlanta school districts struggle to address disruptions in how schools normally operate because of the pandemic. In some cases, they face students not logging into virtual classes. In other cases, school systems are are reopening enrollment because of unused slots. This is true of the Cherokee County School District, which normally has its pre-K slots filled long before classes start.

Beasley said some parents may not see the benefit of virtual learning for the youngest learners or are not sending them because it is not mandated. But he said that could affect their educational development.

“Our children are impacted when they miss pre-K and kindergarten,” Beasley said. “And potentially there may be some challenges.”

In addition, Beasley said falling enrollment impacts money the school system gets. Because state funding of schools is tied to the number of students served, the fewer children enrolled today means fewer dollars for education next year.

“When you’re ready to enroll and you want all these services and the funds have been reduced ... you’ll send me a fired up email saying, ‘Why am I not getting this, why am I not getting that," he said. “And I’ll have to remind you it is because last year you chose not to enroll the children.”