GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) — Fewer parents are choosing to send their children to kindergarten, which is a national trend that concerns Guilford County Schools leaders.

Kindergarten is not mandatory in North Carolina, and this year, 570 fewer kindergartners enrolled in GCS elementary schools than four years ago. 

In 2019, kindergarten enrollment fell 15 percent across the state.  

In Jonathan LeGrande’s kindergarten classroom, eight was the number of the day on Tuesday. 

LeGrande incorporates chants, movement and repetition into his lessons. These are tools catered to helping 5-year-olds learn.  

“We have an important job. Making it fun and exciting at this age will help them to see the importance in upper grades and also help them to love learning,” LeGrande said. 

Dr. Angela Draper is a principal supervisor at GCS, and Florence Elementary School is one of her schools.  

“Any experience they get to have learning and being exposed to numbers, shapes and colors in an early setting is amazing for them,” Draper said. 

While the kindergarten curriculum focuses on literacy, LeGrande says social skills are also critical to preparing the student for the future.  

“Sending them to first grade, they are lacking a lot of social and emotional skills. They are missing a piece of sharing, working together, talking about their feelings,” he said. 

From learning how to work in groups to listening to the teacher, kindergarten provides the framework for the next 12 years of instruction. 

“We want them to have a strong start. Having that strong start … helps them not feel frustrated when they get into the older grades, and parents, too. It gives them an understanding of how school works,” Draper said.

They learn foundational math and reading skills, and they’re better prepared to meet academic benchmarks.  

“They come in not knowing a lot, but they soak it up like sponges … When you see them reading chapter books and having a passion for learning … that lets me know we are setting the bar high and setting the standard to be a successful lifelong learner,” LeGrande said. 

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For any parent nervous about sending their child to kindergarten, start looking into the process in the spring before the year your child is eligible.

In GCS, you can register early, tour the school and even meet teachers and the principal to answer any questions you might have.

Full enrollment information is on the GCS website.