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Kindergarten enrollment is down in Western New York

Posted at 5:33 PM, Feb 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-23 17:33:54-05

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The COVID-19 pandemic has put a damper on 2020-2021 school enrollment. According to an NPR survey kindergarten enrollment is down by 16 percent in the U.S. and that trend can be seen here in Western New York.

According to data from the New York State Education Department each county in Western New York has seen at least a 5% decline in kindergartner enrollment. In Niagara County, that decline was above average — down a whopping 23%.

Here's the breakdown by county:

County 2019-2020 Kindergartners 2020-2021 Kindergartners
Erie 8301 7428
Niagara 1918 1474
Orleans 416 379
Genesee 563 528
Wyoming 296 267
Allegany 426 406
Cattaragus 913 807
Chautauqua 1379 1265

“In a city school district like Niagara Falls, it's absolutely imperative that kids equalize their learning by coming to school as young as three years old," Niagara Falls school superintendent Mark Laurrie said.

He said he believes many factors are contributing to this decline.

“The first factor is that it is not mandatory that you send your child [to school] until they’re 6 years old. The second factor is the uncertainty at the start of this school year with the virus,” he said.

While Laurrie said he understands the hesitation, he said he's fearful that these children may fall behind when they reenter the classroom.

“It will be a long term type of impact were going to see," he said. "And we’ll see this manifest itself when kids are in first, second, and third grade so I'm very concerned about it.”

So Laurrie is encouraging all unenrolled families to rejoin the school system today.

“Being at school at an earlier age is a way to break poverty, start education and again, lead to an ultimately better completion.