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Fewer kindergarten students means money problems for schools and learning concerns for children.

Kindergarten enrollment in American schools has plummeted during the pandemic, potentially setting back educational and social development for children at a critical age and impacting public school budgets for years to come.

Most states don’t require kindergarten attendance. As a result, the drop in enrollment at that age has been steeper than at other levels — down 14 percent in Arizona, for example, compared to 5 percent across all grades. Nicole Swartz, an Arizona parent who did not enroll her son this fall, told AZfamily.com, “I just really disagreed with just the mental well-being of what would happen with a 6-year-old sitting at a laptop all day.”

Parents made similar decisions across the country. Pre-K and kindergarten enrollment fell 18 percent in Massachusetts, compared to declines of almost 4 percent for other grades. In Ohio, kindergarten enrollment declined in nearly every local school district.

The youngest students, many experts agree, are worst suited for remote learning. They’re squirmy. They can’t figure out how to work computers without help. And much of their learning is social, emotional and motor skill-based.

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