Parents waiting to enroll kindergartener’s next year due to COVID-19

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This fall would have been the start of kindergarten for 5-year-old Elaine, but COVID-19 will keep her home.

Elaine’s mom Jamie is going through chemotherapy, so for safety reasons, her daughter will start kindergarten via distance learning and if that fails, they’ll try homeschooling.

"If that tanks, then I have the option of starting her in kindergarten next year, she has a late spring birthday and I don’t think she would be too old as a kindergartener to start next year," her mom said.

It’s a discussion that many would-be kindergarten families are having.

"That’s a really hot topic these days," said Bobbie Burnham, Assistant Commissioner with the Office of Teaching and Learning at the Minnesota Department of Education.

Because of the pandemic and school districts opting for distance or hybrid learning, some parents are keeping their kindergarteners out of school this year.

"It’s really a tough choice and we are hearing a lot of angst from parents right now regarding that decision," Burnham added.

The Minnesota Department of Education says parents should do what is best for their child, but they have the state requirements that must be followed.

"In Minnesota, kindergarten is not required, compulsory education does not begin until age 7," she said.

Therefore, legally, parents do not need to send their child to school, whether in a school building or homeschooling until they are seven years old.

School districts are aware of the dilemma. St. Paul will start the school year via distance learning, the district has set aside September 8 and 9 to have one-on-one virtual meetings between every pre-k and kindergarteners and their teacher.

"It’s actually a welcome meeting to make sure everybody’s on the same page, that we’re meeting the individual needs of our students prior to them begin beginning their online learning," said Kevin Burns, Director of Communications for St. Paul Public Schools.

The district is also making sure every new pre-k and kindergarten student has an IPad and connectivity to make the transition into schooling a smooth one.

"Clearly our families have a lot of questions, our students have a lot of questions and there are several unknowns as we go into the fall learning through distance-learning here in St. Paul," Burns added.

For Jamie, it’s not easy to wait on the school. The decision will impacts the next school year too.

"I am worried, what are those numbers going to look like, are the kindergarten classes next year going to be double in size?" Jamie question to the school principal.

School districts are paying close attention to it.

"That is a topic of conversation, if the numbers are way lower in this kindergarten class that’s going to make next year‘s kindergarten class way higher, so we are really working to make sure we help districts mediate that possibility and really work with them so the impact isn’t felt on one extreme or the other," added Burnham.