Simplified: Sioux Falls-area schools are expecting more kindergarteners this fall than they saw last year. But in some cases it's hard to tell if the change is due to growth in the region or because more parents kept kids home during the pandemic.
Why it matters
- Sioux Falls-area schools kept in-person learning going during the pandemic, which differs from metro areas in many other states. Still, some parents say they chose to keep kids at home an extra year amid uncertainty.
- In Sioux Falls, specifically, kindergarten enrollment was down by about 200 kids last year, according to Assistant Superintendent Teresa Boysen. Now, numbers are back on pace to see an incoming class of 2,000 kindergarteners.
- An increase in kindergarteners matches national trends, but Sioux Falls isn't seeing a dramatic enough increase to justify hiring more teachers, Boysen said.
What about other school districts?
In neighboring districts like Tea, Brandon and Harrisburg, numbers are more markedly up, but it's unclear what exactly causing the increase.
"It would be really difficult to know how much of that is due to COVID and how much is attributed to our growth," Harrisburg Superintendent Tim Graf said.
Tea is up about 20 students over the average increase, and Brandon is closing in on a kindergarten class of 500 kids, which is up significantly from 410 four years ago. In Harrisburg, Graf said the number is a moving target that's hard to pin down for sure until closer to the fall.
Again, though, these communities have already been growing and were projecting growth year-over-year anyway.
What's different this year?
Well, the pandemic has slowed significantly, for one.
- There's much more certainty now than there was a year ago about what school will look like, with in-person learning and optional masking.
- Additionally, COVID-19 cases have dropped dramatically, and vaccines are now available for anyone over the age of 12.
Sioux Falls is also doing more to recruit kindergarteners than it has in past years.
- They did an extra "kindergarten round-up" event, Boysen said. Most years, there's only one.
- The district has also done more outreach via social media to encourage parents to bring kindergarten-age kids in to register (or do so online).
One thing Sioux Falls isn't yet doing differently is staffing.
"Right now we’re staffing for 2,000 (kindergarteners) like we always do," Boysen said, "and we’ll just have to wait and see."
What happens next?
Final kindergarten enrollment numbers won't be known until after school starts in the fall, but expect to see above-average increases in the area.