Pre-K enrollment drops during pandemic

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Some of the littlest learners are missing from classrooms across the Houston area as districts see drastic drops in enrollment numbers.

"It's obviously a direct result of the pandemic," said Ibrahim Firat, chief educational consultant at Firat Education. "Let's face it, we are talking about 2 to 5-year-olds whose attention spans are relatively short."

Spring Branch ISD officials report their pre-K enrollment in Sept. 2019 at 2,004 students and in Sept. 2020 at 1,281. The district's current enrollment is 1,548.

In Aldine ISD, enrollment in Oct. 2019 was 4,124 and in Oct. 2020, it dropped to 2,777. The district's current enrollment is 2,939.

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"Ace was in daycare three days a week," said Scylla Lopez, an ABC13 employee, wife and mom of two boys.

Out of concerns over her 5-year-old son's health during the pandemic, she chose to keep Ace at home. Lopez said she's struggled to find a school structure that works for her family.

"As a parent, you don't ever want to feel like you failed," she said. "That's exactly how I feel sometimes, that I failed as a mother if I can't teach them."

Firat believes the virtual learning implemented at many school districts has put parents in a tough spot with their child's education.

"Pre-K has been proven to be so crucial in a child's social, emotional and educational development," Firat said.

He stresses the importance of having a learning plan for your child to ensure they don't miss out on a year of learning. Firat also adds that the younger the child, the easier it is to make up any missed learning.

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Lopez has looked for resources online and has found age-appropriate classes for her son on the website "OutSchool".

The classes are led by actual teachers and cost anywhere from $6 to $9 per class.

She has this message of support for parents everywhere who are concerned about how they're educating their child:

"It's OK if you're not a teacher at home," Lopez said. "It's OK if your child isn't learning school stuff every single day."

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At Cy-Fair ISD, school officials say they're concerned that it could take up to two years to get students back on track after losing school days last March and for those falling behind online. ABC13 reporter Roxie Bustamante explains what students can do if they need help catching up.

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