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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Desperately seeking kindergarteners in Portland, preschoolers in NYC

Four- and five-year-olds are in short supply in Portland, Oregon, reports Rachel Saslow in Williamette Week. Schools are competing for kindergarteners.

Elementary enrollment is down by 17.3 percent since 2018-19, "enough to fill about 10 elementary schools," she writes.

Every student is worth $14,829 a year to a district school.

That's made Ruby Fuller, 4, a "hot recruit coveted by six local schools for the kindergarten class of 2024." Ruby's mother, Tanya Fuller is considering her choices.

Does she want “project-based learning” and tons of field trips for Ruby? Hit up the Emerson School in Northwest Portland. A hands-on Little House on the Prairie-style Waldorf education? Portland Village School it is. Continue Ruby’s Montessori preschool path but at a charter in North Portland? That would be the Ivy School. One more charter, a private Montessori and finally her neighborhood school, Woodlawn K-5, round out her list.

Families are moving out of the city and county, reports Saslow. They're also having fewer children.

Safety is an issue as well. Erik Hartmann, 48, sends his 6-year-old daughter to kindergarten at a public elementary school, but is thinking of homeschooling next year. “We’re playing Russian roulette every time we send our kids to school,” he told Saslow.

Susan Snow, 36, who "hears gunshots as she works her job from home," will not send her 4-year-old to the neighborhood school, and is considering moving.

New York City created "almost 130,000 free and low-cost preschool seats for three- and four-year-olds, report Troy Closson and Raul Vilchis in the New York Times. Nearly 30,000 seats are empty.

Birth rates are down and some families have left the city, but that doesn't fully explain it.

"Enrollment in public preschool programs plunged during the pandemic across the country, as preschools closed or went remote," Closson and Vilchis write. ("Remote" preschool!) "The largest declines were among the lowest-income families, whose enrollment has rebounded at a slower pace." These were the parents most worried about Covid risks, most convinced their children were "safer at home."

"If we have the highest application rate on record and it’s not even getting close to the capacity that we built, that’s a problem,” said Daniel Weisberg, the education department’s deputy chancellor, at a City Council hearing. “Somebody decided to build 55,000 seats without any reference to what the demand was. That’s how you get into this situation.”

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