Shawnee Mission School District opens pre-K, kindergarten enrollment after major 2020 dip

Early education students read books

Shawnee Mission is opening their enrollment for pre-k and kindergarten students with an online platform after the district saw a drop in enrollment in fall 2020. Above, early education students read books while masked. Photo courtesy of Kristin Babcock.

The Shawnee Mission School District this week opened up enrollment for pre-K and kindergarten for the 2021-22 school year.

The response the district gets may serve as an early indicator of how the district will fare following this year’s significant overall enrollment decline amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the fall, the district recorded about 1,500 fewer students than it had projected for the 2020-21 year. The district’s final headcount of 26,112 turned out to be the lowest enrollment figure in Shawnee Mission in at least five years, according to district records.

Here is how that enrollment dip impacted the district’s youngest grades:

  • In fall 2020, SMSD enrolled 481 pre-K students and nearly 1,800 kindergarteners.
  • By comparison, in the fall of 2019, the district enrolled 698 pre-K students and more than 2,030 kindergarteners.

Part of that drop may be attributed to the fact that the pandemic began spreading locally last year around the time families are normally making decisions about where to enroll their children in the fall, said Kristin Babcock, Shawnee Mission’s communications coordinator.

“There is a lot of excitement to get pre-k and kindergarten students enrolled this year,” Babcock said. “As you can imagine, at the time enrollment and round-up events would have been taking place last year, the pandemic was declared a national emergency and schools were closed for the spring of 2020.”

Across the country, enrollment dips seemed especially pronounced in pre-K and kindergarten, as many parents considered holding their children out of school for the year.

Shawnee Mission officials have adapted their enrollment process this year so families can enroll students entirely online, due to pandemic health restrictions still in place.

Families can complete enrollment documentation or reserve a spot for a pre-K student online here.

Babcock said the district’s messaging around pre-K and kindergarten enrollment will point back to the district’s mission and personalized learning plan for each learner. Additionally, Shawnee Mission will host events later this spring so students can become familiar with a school setting and parents can ask questions.

“We look forward to families meeting our staff and finding out more about the active, engaging learning opportunities available to students and this age,” Babcock said.